‘Heroes House’ opening in downtown Columbus

This building, at 703 Washington St., is being renovated to house the Fresh Start Recovery Center. Saturday, November 2, 2019. An exterior view of the old LHP building where the new Fresh Start Recovery Center is going to be located in Columbus, Ind., pictured, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The downtown Columbus building will temporarily become a place of honor for health care workers involved in treating patients with COVID-19. Carla Clark | For The Republic

An old post office in downtown Columbus being renovated as a recovery center for mothers battling addiction will temporarily become a place of honor for health care workers involved in treating patients with COVID-19.

Until the COVID-19 crisis is over, the limestone building at the northeast corner of Seventh and Washington will become the CRH Heroes House, said Columbus Regional Health spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue.

“This is reserved for our workforce and providers who have been exposed (to the novel coronavirus) from a positive patient or positive employee,” DeClue said.

Originally, the Fresh Start Recovery Center was scheduled to hold an open house this month at that location. But the treatment center for women in recovery who could live there with their children won’t be allowed to open until the contagion risk drops significantly or is eliminated, Fresh Start officials said.

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That prompted Volunteers of America, which acquired the building in August 2018, to temporarily offer it to hospital workers exposed to the virus, said Mary Ferdon, Columbus executive director of administration and community development.

The remodeled building has 17 bedrooms, an equal number of bathrooms, common space, kitchen and laundry facilities, Ferdon said. With three floors, the building works perfectly for these professionals to eat, sleep and isolate, Ferdon said.

So how many CRH employees are likely to be lodged in the facility? State regulations prevent Amanda Organist, director of nursing of the Bartholomew County Health Department, from revealing any hard numbers or projections.

“But I can tell you this (Heroes House) is definitely needed in this community,” Organist said. “I think all counties should have something like this.”

While it may be sad that exposed health care workers can’t immediately go home, “at least they know they are protecting their families from exposure,” Organist said. “I know a lot of these professionals have families with little ones.”

Health care workers are expected to be coming into the facility at all hours of the day and night, so the city has agreed to temporarily reserve 11 adjacent public parking spaces.

Several downtown businesses are closed, so the temporary loss of these spaces will not inconvenience shoppers, Ferdon said.