THE LIGHTHOUSE: More than a home for the displaced

COLUMBIA CITY ­ — Located high on a hill off Bus. U.S. 30, The Lighthouse serves as a beacon of hope to those who find themselves in the darkness of life’s troubles.Michelle Woodard is a case manager at The Lighthouse. She said The Lighthouse is more than just a homeless shelter.“We’ve been labeled as a homeless shelter and I guess in some ways we are, but we offer so much more than a roof over their heads. It is really our mission to not only help people get back on their feet, but to provide healing in areas of their life that brought them here in the first place.”In addition to providing a home, those at The Lighthouse take part in classes such as budgeting and interview how-to’s to help teach and refine life skills.“It is required that our clients take so many classes. We believe that by offering these classes, we give them a chance to better themselves and feel good about themselves. For some, it’s the only time they have ever been taught these lessons, “ said Woodard.Tania Kern, the organization’s director, has developed relationships with other professionals in the community that now partner with The Lighthouse to ensure its mission is successful.Woodard said the YWCA teaches domestic violence classes and the Purdue Extension office gives lessons on family nutrition.“The cooking classes are great. We have someone come and show the clients how to do basic things like de-bone a chicken as well as how to shop for groceries. That is a big one,” said Woodard.“With the price of groceries going up, our clients need to know they can provide their families with the proper nutrition without having to go broke. So these classes teach them how to look for calcium and protein in other forms and how to supplement that in their diets.”Currently, The Lighthouse has 35 beds and have facilities to accommodate men or women with with children, single men, single women, as well as married couples and their families. Woodard said her clients stay for as little as three months and as long as two years.“Some of the clients we have are there because they had to choose between paying their rent or taking care of something else. They find themselves in a catch 22 and when they are evicted or lose their home, we are here to help them until they can find something else,”said Woodard.For those fighting to get out of a domestic violence situation, Woodard said The Lighthouse provides a 30 day program to help that person gain ground. She said many times the victim has been preparing for a way out, but needs a place to land until there is a safe home to go to. Regardless of the situation, Woodard said the organization works to provide counseling and support that will rebuild self esteem and confidence. She said the clients she works with sometimes rely on her coaching and guidance even after they have moved out. This is one of the long-term services The Lighthouse provides.“Sometimes things will happen after they are no longer with us. These triggers have the potential to destroy all that we worked to overcome,” said Woodard.“So, in that case, we are here to help even after they don’t live with us. Sometimes it is as simple as continuing to provide accountability and help in their budgeting.”As with any nonprofit organization, The Lighthouse depends on churches, civic organizations and community residents to help fulfill its practical and monetary needs. Some of the items that can always be used include paper products, hygiene items and cleaning supplies.“We seem to always need paper towels and toilet paper as well as cleaning supplies. What we don’t need are big items like furniture and TVs. But anyone who wants to donate the things we do need can contact us at the office,” said Woodard.For more information on The Lighthouse’s services or to donate, call 244-5266.