History of Middle Way House

Middle Way House incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 1971 in order to provide crisis intervention services to people in Bloomington. For the next ten years, the agency operated as a volunteer organization, responding to needs in the community as they arose. Middle Way provided peer counseling to people abusing drugs and alcohol, operated a venereal disease clinic, and answered the phone 24-hours a day to provide a listening ear to people who were lonely, anxious, frightened, or in need of information and referral services.

In 1981, following the arrival in Bloomington of Planned Parenthood and the South Central Community Mental Health Center, the agency refined its focus, selecting as its target population abused women and their children. In addition to the 24-hour crisis line, the agency began to define a set of appropriate responses to this population. Middle Way House first opened a domestic violence shelter, providing, in addition to safe housing, case management and facilitated in-house peer support groups for women and children from a six-county area in south central Indiana.

In 1984, Middle Way House started support groups for Monroe County women not in residence but coping with the aftermath of intimate partner violence.

In 1987, we began to provide children’s programming in the shelter setting.

In 1988, at the request of the city, we opened a rape crisis center; later in the year, we established a legal advocacy program.

In 1989, we opened the Community Resource Center to house, circulate, and distribute titles on abuse and recovery.

In 1990, we initiated formation of the Monroe County Domestic Violence Task Force, a group consisting of representatives from law enforcement, the courts, the prosecutor’s office, corrections and probation, Child Protective Services, City government, and health and psychological services.

In 1992, we offered support group programming in Greene County, and we began providing services at-the-scene and in the Emergency Room in Bloomington immediately following a police intervention in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In 1994, we opened offices in Lawrence, Owen, and Greene counties to provide crisis intervention and legal advocacy to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In 1995, Middle Way House became a Community Housing Development Organization and, in 1996, we initiated creation of the Housing Network, which successfully negotiated implementation of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund with the City of Bloomington.

In 1996, we opened the Family Support Center (FSC) to provide assistance to precariously housed women-headed families in hopes of preventing homelessness in this population. Through the economic development component of the FSC, our first business, a paper shredding concern, opened in March 1997, to provide living wage jobs with benefits and appropriate supports to women entering the job market after leaving abusive relationships. Also in this year, we began construction of second stage housing for battered women and their children as part of our commitment to the provision of a continuum of housing for this population, and we acquired our second rental unit–low-cost, third stage housing for our target population.

In 2000, we opened a satellite office in Martin County and in 2001, we opened an office in Morgan County.

In 2002, our second business, Food Works, began serving nutritious meals to children in area childcare programs, and in 2003 at Senior Nutrition sites in Monroe and Owen counties. At present, Food Works provides meals for Head Start in-school breakfast and lunch, responds to catering and special food order requests, and sells out of a retail outlet in downtown Bloomington.

In 2004, we opened a second office in Greene County.

In 2005, Middle Way House purchased the historic Coca-Cola Bottling Co. plant on South Washington to enable expansion of Middle Way House programs and provide for new initiatives.

In 2010, the New Wings facility opened its doors as the administrative headquarters of Middle Way House, Inc. In addition, Middle Way House became a founding member of the Monroe County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).

In 2011, we entered into a partnership with Bloomingfoods to increase Food Works’ capacity to employ formerly battered women and enhance the micro enterprise’s revenue streams. Also in this year, Middle Way House joined a County effort to place advocates in the Clerk’s Office to assist with Protective Order filing and to offer information about and referrals for victim services (PROAP).

In 2012, Middle Way House partnered with the Monroe County court system to provide screening for domestic violence and on-scene advocacy in Child Support Court.

In 2013 and 2014, members of Middle Way House’s prevention team won the State’s Preventionist of the Year Award.

In 2016, MWH was selected for “Dancing with the Celebrities” and thanks to the hard work of singer Janiece Jaffe and her dance parter Ryan Rud-Cloud, we won the competition and raised nearly $10,000!  In the fall, MWH partnered with the City of Bloomington for Hands Across the Trail, an event designed to bring our community together and encourage bystander intervention. Over 100 people attended and joined hands on the B-Line as a sign of solidarity in keeping our trails and community safe from sexual assault. Our “Wrapped in Love” public art display of tree wraps was successful, with 10 sponsors and nearly $6000 raised!

In October, of 2016 the Middle Way House community came together to honor the retirement of Toby Strout, our executive director of 30 years. After a nationwide search, the board selected Debra Morrow as the new executive director. With her past experience as community service coordinator, and having lived at The RISE! herself, Debra brings      intimate knowledge of Middle Way House and both client and employee needs.

Toby Strout passed away in February of 2017, and will be sorely missed. Middle Way House encourages contributions to the Voices Fund in her honor.