The first time I pulled open the door to walk inside, I admit I had mixed feelings: I needed to conduct my business as quickly as possible and vacate the premise as quickly as possible.
You see, I was visiting a friend who was lodging in a homeless shelter, and to be quite frank, I didn’t know exactly whom or what I might encounter.
As I entered the facility, I immediate noticed that it had a clean smell, the kind of smell correlative with an environment where the occupants pick up after themselves and conduct house cleaning on a daily basis.
As I slowly ambled down the hallway, I entered the dayroom-kitchen sector, a single, though spacious, area complete with television, couch, easy chairs, and tables for relaxation and leisure; and a stove, refrigerator, shelves of food, and a large dining table for food preparation and consumption.
A few of the residents, including my friend Bob, were watching TV.
My initial apprehension immediately evolved into one of comfort.
Since that fateful day, I’ve paid several visits to the Lighthouse Full Circle Ministry, generally referred to as Lighthouse, a home for men without a home, you could say.
It is located near the fairgrounds in McMinnville in Warren County.
I spoke at length with Ron Johnson, Lighthouse’s resident manager, and he edified me with the following:
“Lighthouse was started in 2010 by Nathan Smith, a career, Warren County educator,” Ron began. “It dawned on Mr. Smith that there were many grown men in Warren County with no shelter, and he wanted to do something about it, which he did. Lighthouse is overseen by a board of directors consisting of church members from various churches in Warren County.
“Our capacity for residents is 12. Rooms are furnished with bunk beds, and three meals are served daily. The basic requirements-rules are: First, they need a place to say. We have zero tolerance for drugs and violence. Church is required, some mandatory, some individual choice. Also required are in-house group meetings.”
Ron continued, “Some of our residents are disabled. However, those capable of working are expected to work. As I’ve stated in the past, we view Lighthouse as a ‘hand-up,’ not a ‘hand-out.’ Our ultimate goal is to help these men rise to a level where they can be self-substantive and independent.
“How long a resident can stay at Lighthouse is based on – as I just said – physical limitations versus the ability and willingness to work.”
Darrell, a resident, had this to say: “The folks here really helped me out after I got out of jail. When I was released, I’d lost my car, my apartment, my family, everything. Lighthouse gave me a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, food in my stomach, and I even landed a decent job. I plan to get own place in the very near future.
“Without Lighthouse, I don’t know where I’d be right now. However, with the fresh start they’ve given me, I, now, have no shame-in-my-game,” Darrell smilingly said.
As the evening wore on, and Ron and I exchanged even more, we honed in on a stark fact that is a bit on the scary side.
Even though they might currently be dwelling in posh, six-figure homes in upper-class neighborhoods, wearing designer threads, and sporting around town in trendy rides, a large number of these same people are just a paycheck or two away from being homeless and out on the streets, hungry and traveling by foot.
This much I know for sure: From time to time when I’m in the neighborhood, I enjoy stopping by Lighthouse and hanging out.
Not only do I feel welcome, the fellows at Lighthouse have helped me to more clearly see the light.