Homeless Woman Shares Story During Lagging Economy

By: Holly Brantley

MARION, Ill. - It could happen to you.  That's the message from people living in the Heartland with no place to call home.  Now, the lagging economy is making it that much harder for them to find jobs and get back on their feet.
JoAnn Hope is one of those people.
"I'm 51 years old and I never thought I'd be homeless," she said.  "I lost everything.  I never thought that would happen."
JoAnn says an unpredictable chain of events including a DUI and the death of her father cost her everytyhing.
"I came to The Lighthouse to get on my feet and find a job.  I want a place to live so I can get my life back," she said.
But in today's economy, JoAnn says it's been nearly impossible to find work.  She says many of her friends have the same story.
"You really have to know someone.  I walk around a lot.  I'm trying to meet people and ask who's hiring."
"The employers want younger, but I know the future is bright."
Sharon Atchison is the Executive Director of The Lighthouse.
"Employment has been harder to come by in the last six months," Atchison said. "Many residents lack budgeting skills.  We're working on a program to help them with that.  We have many success stories and we'll have more."
"There's no question the economy is in a real down town," said Ivan Zwick. 
Zwick is in charge of raising the money to keep The Lighthouse open.  He says that's a challenging task these days as everyone struggles financially.  But, he says many groups help with donations.
"We all need to remember many of us aren't too far from homeless," said Zwick.
Meanwhile, JoAnn says she's confident there's a job out threre for her.
"I"m a hard worker," she said.  "I have a lot of faith." 
Donations to the shelter are tax deductable. 
They are proud to have helped 765 men, women, and children get back on their feet since opening almost two years ago.
About 30 residents stay at the shelter at any given time.  They can hold up to 60.  About 30 percent of the residents are children.