Twelve previously homeless women now have a roof over their heads, thanks to a new shelter the Kokomo Rescue Mission opened late last year.
The shelter, dubbed Watered Garden, opened in response to a need. In 2017, Van Taylor, executive director of KRM, said 101 women were turned away for shelter because there were no beds available. Now, in the months since opening Watered Garden, the need remains apparent.
“We have 20 beds; however, we’ve been doing a slow process as far as opening. It’s going well. We initially had eight people, and then we bumped up that number to continue to have our soft opening,” said Anna Brown, director of Watered Garden. “Within just a couple days we got 12, so it’s obviously needed for the community.”
In addition to providing shelter, Watered Garden also offers classes on topics designed to help women overcome the obstacles that may have led to their homelessness, including addictions, financial literacy, and education. There is no maximum stay, according to Brown, but residents must be working toward their goals.
“That’s one of the things that we just continue to do and put everything into it because we want to make sure they achieve their goals. A lot of times anxiety, fear of never reaching their goals, people tend to get in their own way of success because they’ve never experienced that type of success. So, we discuss that quite a bit,” said Brown.
For resident Brandi Bare, 43, it’s helping.
Bare ended up at the shelter after struggling with alcoholism. Around 2016, Bare started drinking heavily and soon lost her home.
“I was an alcoholic and became homeless and just never stopped, never wanted to stop, and it was going from house to house just wherever I could stay,” Bare said. “I was in an abusive relationship, lost contact with two of my three children because of my drinking. My family, pretty much every relationship I had, it was ruined because of alcohol,” Bare said. “Everyone was tired of hearing, ‘Oh, I’ll do better. I’ll stop.’”
Bare said she’d stop drinking for a little while at a time, but the longest she was sober was three weeks.
“I would be like, ‘OK, I went that long. I’m OK to have another drink.’ And it just was not happening,” she said.
Bare became well-known by law enforcement officials over those three years. She said she was arrested every year for public intoxication, and she was put in the hospital twice after being deemed a threat to herself. One time, her blood alcohol level was 0.3, she said, and Bare was told she was close to having a stroke.
Another time, she was found passed out on a road.
“They didn’t know if they could revive me. I’ve been attacked because of my drinking. My whole face was fractured. I didn’t know if it was going to heal right on one side. I had stitches all in my head. I’ve been hit by a car walking,” she said.
Eventually, Bare ended up in Marion to stay with a cousin and her boyfriend at the time. She was drinking a case of beer a day in addition to sometimes half a fifth of liquor. She said if she got a job she would lose it, and she and her boyfriend would argue regularly. Eventually, her toxic relationship led to her cousin asking her to leave.
Bare, having nowhere else to go and realizing how bad her addiction was, went to the hospital.
“I was like, ‘OK, well then I’m going to the hospital or else I’m going to end up in jail or end up dead,” Bare said.
She admitted herself to the hospital and went through detox, which took four days and was “horrible.” Had she not been in the hospital, Bare said she would have drunk just to not feel that way.
Toward the end of her stay, hospital officials began calling around to shelters around Marion to try to find her a bed because Bare said she knew she couldn’t go back to any of her previous situations.
“I was like, I can’t go back to those situations anymore. This is the last time I want to be almost dead,” she said.
She quickly found out there were no beds available in Marion, Anderson, or Indianapolis, but eventually a bed was found for her at Watered Garden. Bare moved in on Dec. 9, and she said she was comfortable immediately.
She’s been sober since Dec. 3.
“I still struggle every day, but I know if I need anybody to talk to, I can talk to [someone here]. It makes me want to be stronger, and a lot of it, it makes me feel good to have somebody to say, ‘Oh, I’m proud of you,’” she said.
Looking forward, Bare said she intends to work on her sobriety, take as many classes as possible at Watered Garden, get a job, get back out on her own, and mend relationships with her family. In the meantime, she’s spending time volunteering, something that she said makes her feel purposeful.