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It’s a ‘Beacon’ of hope

Local facility provides help to the homeless

May 17, 2009
By MARK LAW, Staff writer

STEUBENVILLE - For the homeless, the Beacon House in the city's North End is a light drawing them into an environment where they can get help.

The Beacon House at 732 N. Sixth St. opened in September 2007. The $1 million facility is a safe haven project for the homeless. It is split into a drop-in center and 10 apartments for transitional and permanent housing.

The Jefferson Behavioral Health System received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Ohio Department of Development, Ohio Department of Mental Health, the Ohio Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Jefferson County commissioners, who contributed county housing funds, to construct Beacon House.

Article Photos

Mark Law
CRAFT CLASS — People using the drop-in center at the Beacon House participate in a craft class. The Beacon House and drop-in center helps the homeless and those on the verge of becoming homeless. Cooking classes, job search help, daily living skills and bingo and card games are available at the drop-in center.

Tricia Antill, Beacon House vocational services coordinator, said the use of the drop-in center has been increasing. The drop-in center was only used 98 times in December. The usage increased to 389 times in March and 348 in April.

Homeless people and others on the verge of becoming homeless can use the drop-in center, which includes bathrooms and showers, a kitchen and laundry facilities. The drop-in center also provides a variety of activities, including craft and cooking classes.

"We try to make the drop-in center a fun place to go where people can come to enjoy themselves," Antill said.

Chuck Carr, Beacon House residential manager, coordinates services to help homeless people. He helps individuals apply for housing assistance, coordinate job searches and gets them involved with Jefferson Behavioral Health, where they can get help for substance abuse and mental health problems.

The drop-in center is a person's first contact with Jefferson Behavioral Health, Carr noted.

He added many of the people who come to the drop-in center have mental health problems.

Carr helps those on the verge of becoming homeless with assistance in paying utility bills.

"We try to do homeless prevention. People need to come in sooner to get services before they are pushed into a corner," he said.

The drop-in center offers things that many people take for granted, according to Carr, who noted the homeless don't have a telephone or fax machine that can be used to apply for a job.

Antill said the individuals also receive supportive services and learn budgeting and daily living skills, such as hygiene. She added she also tries to get them involved in a hobby.

There are plans for a barbecue and other outdoor activities at the drop-in center, and there is a vegetable garden there during the summer months.

"We want them to get out and be involved in the community," Antill said.

She noted the toughest task is finding the individuals jobs. She said entry level jobs were once easy to find but it's become a lot harder with the economy. More people are out there trying to get jobs - especially part-time jobs trying to supplement retirement benefits, she said.

Carr added the staff members at the drop-in center work to help identify job skills.

Carr said those at Beacon House or at the drop-in center never thought six months ago they would be there and in their current situation.

Amy Rovira, a Jefferson Behavioral Health case manager, said she counsels those using the Beacon House on the variety of mental health and drug and alcohol addiction services available in the community. She noted each person is evaluated and assigned a case manager

Rovira noted there are group therapy sessions held at Beacon House to build confidence in the drop-in center and she added a person doesn't have to live at Beacon House to receive case management.

Help also is available to get a person transportation to medical appointments or job interviews.

Carr said residents live at the Beacon House for an average of six to nine months and then transition to independent living.

The ultimate goal is to prepare the individuals for independent living, Antill said.

Carr said there is no time limit or pressure on residents at the Beacon House to move out.

He noted the 10 apartments are always filled at the Beacon House and added there is a need for 20 to 25 apartments at any time. He also said the number of people needing help at the Beacon House could increase with the condition of the economy.

Antill said the amount of available housing in the community is decreasing, and there is a waiting list for applications for Section 8 or government assisted housing.

Carr pointed out the demolition of the Elmer White Apartments and the sale of the former Parkview Circle apartments to Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Carr noted there is a need to have individuals living near a bus route so they can get transportation to a job or medical appointment, and that limits housing to Steubenville.

Antill added the Beacon House needs donations of various items, especially clothing, such as new underwear and socks, long johns, hygiene supplies and laundry detergent. Computers also are needed, she said.

(Law can be contacted at mlaw@heraldstaronline.com.)

 
 

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