Thirteen women move from YWCA to Walnut Commons

ywca-movingPatty Murphy is one of the initial tenants to move into the new downtown Walnut Commons, the city’s first “supportive housing” project to combat homelessness.

“Anything I can get help with, I’ll be willing to accept it,” said Murphy, 49, who suffers from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other hardships that landed her in the shelter at the YWCA Central Indiana.

The best part of moving from the YWCA to Walnut Commons will be having her own place, where she won’t be embarrassed to invite her children to visit.

“I don’t want them to see me in a homeless shelter,” Murphy said during her final day at the YWCA. “I want them to be proud of me.”

Walnut Commons is a three-story, 44-unit, multi-million-dollar apartment building at Wysor and Walnut streets that will cater to people who can live independently but need supportive services, including the disabled, veterans and people at risk for homelessness.

Rents are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which defines the homeless as people who sleep in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks and abandoned buildings, or those who sleep in emergency shelters like the YWCA as a primary residence.

The tenants will include those with mental disorders, addictions and health disorders.

Murphy has seven children, the youngest of whom is turning 8. She has worked at McDonald’s as a cashier and a cook. She underwent triple bypass surgery four years ago. She receives Supplemental Security Income from the federal government.

She says she can remember, at age 5, seeing her foster parents beat her younger sister to death. Before becoming an adult, she lived with her father until he died, then with an older cousin, then in homes for orphaned children before moving in with her grandmother in Portland. Growing up, she bounced around from Fort Recovery, Ohio, to Elkhart, Valparaiso, Indianapolis and Vincennes.

Since her grandmother kicked her out when Murphy was 21, she has lived in Muncie. She moved into the YWCA after staying with different friends for a couple of weeks at a time. “I was basically in between places,” she said. “I guess I kind of ran out of friends.”

Chicago-based Up Development built Walnut Commons after the project (one-bedroom and studio apartments) finally received low-income housing tax credits. Its partners on the project include the non-profit Meridian Health Services, provider of psychiatric, addictions, family medical and other services.

Murphy and a dozen other women from the YWCA, including Mary McCollum, are moving into Walnut Commons.

A breast cancer survivor, McCollum sought shelter at the YWCA after her brother and sister-in-law told her, “We’re moving; we don’t know about you.” “I would have been on the street,” she told The Star Press.

In addition to heart problems, McCollum has high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. She has a job as a dish washer at The Downtown Farm Stand, which is about halfway between the YWCA and Walnut Commons.

McCollum wanted to move to Walnut Commons because “you have your own place to cook and don’t have to share a kitchen or bathroom,” she said on her last day at the YWCA. “Here, it is more community living. I will miss the staff here. They’ve always got a smile. ‘Good morning, how are you doing?’ I consider them family.”

Women wind up at the YWCA for any number of reasons, such as having no place else to go, cancer victims losing everything to pay medical bills, early widowhood, getting off drugs, being turned away by family.

“It takes a lot to get your life back together when you’ve lost everything and have to go to a homeless shelter,” says Nance Buchert, executive director of the YWCA.

The 13 women moving out of the YWCA and into Walnut Commons completed a transitional program that taught them independence.

They share a “true, deep-down desire to give it another shot to be successful, to be independent,” Buchert said. “I’m thrilled for these women, but at the same time it’s like losing a piece of yourself to see all of them leave at the same time.”

Contact Seth Slabaugh at The Star Press at (765) 213-5834.