New housing includes 'justice diversion center'

Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza Myra Wilkey, chief executive officer of Mental Health America of West Central Indiana.

TERRE HAUTE — A community-based justice diversion center near Liberty Village, 2800 Elm St., is part of a low-income housing project through Mental Health America of West Central Indiana Inc.

It is slated for construction in the second quarter of 2022.

Mullen Flats is a 3,500-square foot, three-story project consisting of a Justice Diversion Center on the ground floor with 42 one-bedroom, low-income permanent supportive housing units on the top two floors, said Theo Hull, director of development for Mental Health America.

Mental Health America has been awarded $13.9 million for the project, with $1.5 million from the Indiana Housing Trust Fund and $12.4 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits from Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

“We are excited to see this all come together,” said CEO Myra Wilkey. “There has been an immense amount of planning in the last two years. Not only are we able to address the affordable housing crisis by adding more units, but the diversion program will be a tremendous asset to the community.

“Diversion programs are proven to be highly effective in rehabilitating offenders from future crime. People going through a diversion program are less likely to spend time incarcerated and receive more treatment services,” Wilkey said.

“What we are thinking is that law enforcement and the prosecutor will determine who goes there” to the diversion center, Wilkey said. “Peoples’ needs are not the same and this is not a correctional facility by any means. If the prosecutor offers the diversion program to them, then there will be certain things that they will need to accomplish before going back to court.”

That includes treatment programs “and a number of different things,” Wilkey said. “A diversion center decreases costs for a community. It reduces the number of beds utilized in the jail and benefits the person that is in the program the most as they are getting the treatment that they need in lieu of jail,” Wilkey said.

“It is a brownfield there, so we have some environmental work to do,” Wilkey said. The ground is being tested, as required by the state, with test results slated to be known by the end of February.

“We know what was there the last time we had it tested, but it just needs to be retested,” she said of the land that once housed a railyard with a roundabout for trains.

Permanent supportive housing is an intervention that combines affordable housing assistance with voluntary support services to address the needs of people experiencing chronic homelessness. The services are designed to build independent living and tenancy skills and connect people with community-based health care, treatment, and employment services.

All 42 housing units will be subsidized through project-based vouchers, making the units affordable for persons with very low or no income, Hull said.

Mental Health America of West Central Indiana Inc. is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to enhancing the mental health of the community and improving the quality of life of persons with mental illness through prevention, advocacy, education and services.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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