I am amazed, in awe, and inspired by the way many nonprofit leaders – many of whom are women – are leading their organizations through the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. So much so, that I’ve decided to do a special series about Nonprofit Executive Women who are living in the trenches, working to keep their nonprofit running, and doing critical work to continue to serve individuals and families during this crisis. I’m curious about their work and the people they’re serving, their biggest concerns, and how they are taking care of themselves and those around them. So I asked!

Teresa Wessel, Executive Director | Horizon House

Horizon House is the only full-service day center in Central Indiana, serving an average 3,000 of our homeless neighbors annually. Now with COVID-19, their numbers – and the way they are providing care for our homeless neighbors – has changed. Teresa Wessel has served as Executive Director for the past seven years. Prior to that she served as the agency’s director of development. She works tirelessly, along with her staff, to provide a safe place for homeless neighbors to begin building their lives. She has shared in the past that homelessness is not subject to one class or another, and on any given pay period at least 10 percent of the Indianapolis workforce that’s one paycheck away from the streets. Scary! I can only imagine the impact the coronavirus is having on Horizon House, their critical work, and Indianapolis’ homeless population.

Q.  Who are you serving and how are you serving them during this crisis?

A.  Horizon House remains committed to our mission of serving individuals experiencing homelessness in our community. We are continually assessing the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to take every available precaution to protect our neighbors, our staff, and our community. Following these recommendations, we have created response plans to protect our community while continuing to provide essential services. Many of those whom we serve have no other resources to meet their basic human needs aside from Horizon House.

Earlier this week, we implemented a new level of response. Neighbors coming to Horizon House will be able to access basic needs in a walk-through style of services. We are limiting the number of people in the building at one time. We also are diverting additional staff to street outreach. Our street outreach teams continue to reach encampments and unsheltered individuals across our city. They are providing hygiene kits, socks, food kits, blankets, and crisis management and support. Additionally, we continue to provide services to individuals and families in our permanent supportive housing program.

Q.  Have you added, changed or deleted any services because of COVID-19?

A.  To align with the COVID-19 health precautions and social distancing guidelines, we have modified our basic needs services to be a walk-thru with no one staying in our dayroom.

Q.  What are your biggest concerns right now?

A.  My biggest concern right now is keeping our staff and neighbors safe and healthy. Meeting neighbor’s most basic needs and making sure they have something to eat is our highest priority right now.

Q. How are you taking care of yourself, your staff and your clients?

A.  We are adhering to social distancing the best we can. Our team has really pulled together in mutual support and helping each other.

Q. What is your biggest need right now and how can people support your organization?

A.  Our biggest in-kind donation needs are pre-packaged food items (peanut butter crackers, granola bars, etc.). Other items of need can be found on our website at horizonhouse.cc.  Items can be delivered directly to Horizon House at 1033 E. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202.  Another option is to give financially through our website. Those critical funds will be allocated day-to-day in order to meet our most urgent needs.

Q.  Anything else you would like to add?

A.  I just want to thank you and your readers for this opportunity to share about Horizon House and how they can partner with us in serving the most vulnerable in our community. We’re all in this together!