Effingham Daily News
A new homeless shelter aims to not only provide the basics for living, but help men with resumes, job searches and accepting Christianity.
The Enduring Freedom Ministries (EFM) shelter, located at 11009 U.S. 40, opened in June and is currently home to seven men.
"We've toured so many shelters," said Vickie Kight, United States director of EFM. "Very few are Christian-based, and hardly any ... are set up like we are."
The shelter is set apart from others by its loving atmosphere.
"We want them to understand that they are loved," Kight said. "Just because they are homeless, doesn't mean they're worthless."
The building was a church years ago. It has a kitchen, one large sleeping room with a living area, a full bathroom and an attached apartment where Kight lives.
Future plans include completing a second full bathroom, fixing up the apartment for a homeless family and building six cabins nearby for those in need.
The building is primarily for men, although women may be taken in on an emergency basis.
There is no limit on the time residents may call the shelter home, but they must strive to achieve goals discussed with management and follow the Second Chance Program.
The program requires the men to spend half of every weekday in Effingham, working on resumes, job applications and skills, or Social Security Income for those who are physically unable to work.
Two men are practicing to get their GEDs.
Two others have obtained employment and are saving for their own apartments.
"Every one of them are successes," Kight said.
The other half of the day is spent in classes, which include cooking, money management and mock job interviews.
Topic talk, where the men can open up on any topic and then search the Bible for guidance, may be implemented in the future as well.
"I think we're the only shelter that does this (Second Chance Program) - at least in Illinois," Kight said.
On Saturdays the group works, either at the shelter or in the community.
Their services are available for hire or donation; in the past they have taken care of scrap metal and appliances and cleaned apartments for landlords after residents have vacated the premises.
Volunteering is also encouraged, Kight said.
"They are wonderful volunteers," she said. "They're not lazy ... They're not asking for handouts anymore. They're looking for a hand up, to be given a second chance."
The group includes certified mechanics and a cook, among other skill sets.
Some of the 25 to 30 people the shelter has helped have trouble gaining employment because of prison time, although they are hoping for new opportunities.
The shelter is one of the few that allows pets and has been home to three so far.
Chores are assigned to those who stay, which can be a challenge for some.
"For about 80 percent of them, we have to teach the basics," Kight said, using cooking and laundry as examples.
She said some of them wouldn't know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich or run a washing machine, but when assigned chores they learn how to add to the team.
The men must also attend a Christian service on Sundays. Management does not stipulate the denomination, but wants the residents to develop a personal relationship with God and Jesus through their stay at the shelter.
"They lose so much self-esteem (when they) lose their families and lose their jobs," Kight said. "The economy is not going to get any easier. We're all one paycheck away from being homeless."
Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or firstname.lastname@example.org.