It’s not the time of year to be sleeping outside.
With temperatures already dropping to single digits once this winter, a men’s shelter named Lighthouse Full Circle has been a vital lifeline for a number of homeless Warren County residents.
“It’s sure better than sleeping under a bridge out there in the cold,” said men’s shelter resident Joey Jaco, who is in his second stay at the facility. “Without this place, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go.”
Lighthouse Full Circle has beds for 12 people, according to founder Nathan Smith. The homeless shelter, open to only men, is located at the old dog pound by the fairgrounds. This is its eighth year of operation.
“We stay full all year, but this is the time when we have people asking to sleep on recliners or sleep on the floor, anything to get out of the cold,” said Smith. “It’s not the nicest place in the world, but they have all their needs met with heating and air, water, and food. It’s livable and it’s warm.”
Smith said some shelters have a restriction on how many days a person can stay and sometimes it’s only for a very short time. He said Lighthouse Full Circle doesn’t have a limit on how long a person can stay, provided they are working to better themselves.
“I don’t know of anybody who has gotten to this point who can turn their life around in a week,” said Smith.
Continued Smith, "We evaluate each person individually and see if they’re making progress. If they are, they can stay. Progress is measured differently for each person. For one person it might be that they’re staying off drugs. For another person it might be that they’re keeping a job. If we don’t see any change, we can’t house them for the rest of their lives. We’ve had to tell some people they have to do something else.”
For Kevin Cope, he’s been staying at Lighthouse Full Circle for two weeks. He says he was given a bed after he could no longer afford paying $550 a month at a local motel.
“This is a good place to be while I’m trying to find work,” said Cope, who manages the kitchen area as part of his household chores.
Residents are required to help with chores and attend daily meetings as part of their stay. These daily meetings focus on things such as religion, maintaining employment, and financial management.
“A lot of guys come here but they won’t stay,” said Jaco. “We have chores to do and a lot of guys don’t like that. We also have Bible study and there are guys who don’t like that either so they won’t stay. I’ve had four different jobs in the two times I’ve been here. It’s hard for me to find a job I can hang onto without transportation.”
Smith says Lighthouse Full Circle is full of success stories and estimates about 85 percent of residents who stay there develop skills that lead to full-time employment.
“We’re had stories where people get a job and save up enough money to buy a vehicle,” said Smith.
As for funding, Smith says that’s a constant battle. He said local churches and a few individuals provide nearly all of the money to keep the shelter operational. Residents who receive government assistance such as food stamps are asked to put half of their money toward providing food at the shelter.
“People ask why we don’t have a nicer facility,” said Smith. “If I would have waited till I could afford it, or waited till I could do it right, we would have never opened.”