Homeless shelter nearly full after only six weeks

Homeless shelter nearly full after only six weeks
By: Carly O'Keefe
MARION, Ill. - It's not what you'd expect to see in a homeless shelter. Elegant bedspreads, throw pillows, and cozy chairs decorate the Lighthouse Shelter.

But just as its name suggests -- in the six weeks it's been open -- the shelter has become a beacon of hope for the homeless. "We've had several success stories already of people coming in, finding jobs and finding homes and leaving," said Lighthouse Shelter Founder Ivan Zwick.

The shelter displayed a card in a child's hand writing Sunday at an open house. It reads: 'thank you Lighthouse Shelter for letting us in.' Letters from adults convey the same message of gratitude for the help many need so desperately.
"Rural homelessness is as real as urban homelessness," said Lighthouse Board President Sharon Atchison. "There was a need here. We opened on a Monday at 5:00 in the afternoon and we had 15 residents that evening, by Thursday of that week we had 40 residents."
Sixty beds are available, 50 of them are now filled; but Lighthouse doesn't just offer a place to sleep for the night, it offers the promise of a better tomorrow.
"We find out what their needs are and what their goals are, and we work with them to achieve those goals. Those goals can be permanent housing, a job, whatever they need to be self-sufficient," said Atchison.

The rooms feel less like a shelter, and more like a home. Each room was adopted, furnished and decorated by community groups or individuals. "It wasn't a room contest, no one knew what anyone else was doing, they just all had big hearts and wanted them to be nice rooms," said volunteer Ann Hazlewood.

It's only by way of a big-hearted community that the shelter was able to open in the first place; and donations have to keep it running too. "I think all of us who've had success have that obligation to our fellow man, we're just doing God's work, and we all should be doing it," said Zwick.