An Ellendale-area church that runs a shelter for homeless women and women on probation who otherwise would be homeless will be adding a second shelter for men, women and families in the coming year.
The existing shelter, called Lighthouse Program, is a collaboration between the Philadelphia Pentecostal Holiness Church on South Old State Road near Ellendale and the Wilmington-based Brandywine Counseling & Community Services.
The 4,200-square-foot shelter, located across the street from the church, currently houses about a dozen women and their young children.
“Not all the children stay here full time,” explained clinical supervisor Cheryl Chambers. “Some of the women only have partial custody. We have a diverse population. Some are homeless. Some are on probation. They come from all walks of life.”
With funding from grants, donations and collections from its 1,000 congregants, the church also provides the women with individual case management that includes assistance with finding work, earning a GED, dealing with child custody issues, acquiring welfare benefits and saving money for private housing through an on-site credit union. The Lighthouse Program also offers residents drug treatment and mental health counseling, as well as rides to court and medical appointments.
The church, meanwhile, offers a soup kitchen three days a week and provides a weekly box of food to each of the women staying at the shelter.
The staff of about 20 includes two licensed counselors and a licensed social worker.
“We do it all here,” church leader Bishop Major Foster said. “Our goal is to get them back into the mainstream so they can be productive members of the community.”
Program director NaTascha Hughes said women typically stay at the shelter for six to nine months and there currently is a full waiting list.
“They’re knocking our door down,” she said. “Right now, we’re bursting at the seams.”
Last month, the Sussex County Board of Adjustments granted the church a special-use exception to operate a second shelter for men, women and families.
The planned 4,800-square-foot shelter will house about 40 people, including about three families who will be able to stay in studio apartments.
Foster said he expects the new shelter to cost about $200,000 to build — a fraction of the market cost.
“We have in-house carpenters and we receive a good deal of credits and discounts from area merchants,” he said. “We also get some prisoners from Georgetown to help us with the construction.”
Foster said the church plans to start the foundation for the new building this month with construction slated for completion in the next year.
“Since the economy dropped, a lot of people have lost their homes and when people get out of jail, they have nowhere to go,” he said. “They need somewhere to stay because otherwise some of them will end up robbing or stealing just to get something to eat.”
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