There are a lot of impactful organizations in Cincinnati helping to end homelessness, but one in particular, is doing some great things for our youth: Lighthouse Youth Services. This is not to say that Upspring, Project Connect, Interfaith Hospitality Network, and others aren’t doing great things, but the scope of Lighthouse is beyond amazing, in terms of the things that it does to support our youth. The work of Safe and Supportive, housed at Lighthouse, is what inspired the UPZ app. This week, we had the pleasure of touring what will become Lighthouse Youth Services newest shelter and supportive housing complex “A Place to Call Home.”
Lauren, a young and vibrant Homeless Coalition speaker, shares how Lighthouse’s efficiency and care surprised her. Lauren went from living on the street and in shelters to having a supportive living environment in less than a week. She talks about how Lighthouse staff encouraged her to finish high school (and how they continue to help her focus on her goal of graduating from college). Lighthouse has had a very real impact on Lauren’s life, like so many others.
“A Place to Call Home” is a monumental undertaking occurring in the neighborhood of Walnut Hills, near Lighthouse’s main offices on McMillan Ave. The goal of “A Place to Call Home” is to create a supportive and welcoming environment for youth who are experiencing homelessness or may need supportive services. Currently, Lighthouse runs the Sheakley Center (on Highland) and the Crisis Center (on Jefferson), among their other service locations. These two locations provide essential services to youth (ages 10 to their 25th birthday). At the crisis center, there is 24/7 support for youth under 18. Any youth who runs away can find safety there. The Sheakley Center provides a safe place for youth 18-25 to do laundry, meet with health practitioners, and use the resource center during specific times throughout the week. Much of Sheakley’s services will be moved to “A Place to Call Home” within the next two years.
It will take a great deal of work and support to get “A Place to Call Home” up and running. The building was built over a 100 years ago as a fabric and clothing manufacture business. It has high ceilings, walls of glass windows, and concrete floors. One of the interesting features includes parallel staircases that reminds you of an MC Escher painting. The old bathrooms are a testament to a time long passed, and the executive offices look like something out of a 1950’s movie, with bad lighting and off-putting wall paneling. All of this will be removed for about 40 supportive housing efficiencies and one bedroom apartments.
On the first floor there will be a very large resource center, laundry, and a shelter for youth. The resource center will have computers and other amenities to help youth find jobs and other services. It will be similar to the one at the Sheakley Center but much larger. The shelter will be state-of- the-art with safety measures throughout. This area now is a parking garage and part of the warehouse. It’s hard to see what it will look like, but Bob Mecum, the President and CEO of Lighthouse, shows great enthusiasm when talking about the transition that will take place over the next 18 months. Bob explained the plan to relocate the Sheakley Center’s resources here, and move the Crisis Center to Sheakley. This will help bring the services closer together. In fact, the mental health services that Lighthouse offers now at the McMillan location will be just a block from “A Place to Call Home”, making it easier for youth and case workers to make meetings and appointments.
It was great to see some of the financial supporters of the project at the open house as well. Sometimes you feel a disconnect between supporters and an organization, but it was clear that so many local foundations and individuals care deeply about our youth facing a crisis, such as homelessness. Bob Mecum did a great job making connections and helping to create a picture in our minds of what it will look like when it’s finished. When you meet someone like Lauren, and you feel her hope, courage, and desire to live in a better world, it’s hard to not get inspired to do something about homelessness. At the Homeless Coalition, we work hard to eradicate homelessness, and together, with our member organizations, we will see an end to homelessness in Cincinnati.