The second floor of First Light houses the emergency shelter. It is a dorm-like environment with 36 beds, a family room, and a volunteer room. A metal locker accompanies each bed, which allows our guests to remove all their possessions from the typical carrying case… a large plastic garbage bag, to secure them in a neat and clean place.
When guests "arrive" in the shelter, they open a locker door to find clean linens, a pillow, blankets, and a towel. The first action is usually to make the bed, fluff the pillow and place any special personal items on the bed to make feel like home. This might include a Bible, a photo of a loved one, or stuffed animals. This promotes settling into what may be "home" for several weeks. Nightly overnight volunteers are present to distribute laundry detergent and whatever hygiene products are needed.
This first night may be a guest's first shower in days, maybe weeks.
The guest can now give a sigh of relief, lay one's head on the pillow, and sleep in a safe and secure environment. The morning will bring a new light, a new day.
A new day has dawned. The new guest is awakened by the volunteer. Shelter guests get dressed, go downstairs, eat breakfast, and do morning chores. Then it is time to begin- "How did I get here? How did I get to this point in my life? My life was not supposed to end up like this." These and other questions will be asked and addressed in many sessions with a First Light Social Worker.
The following days and weeks may involve appointments with doctors, filling out applications for public assistance, searching for employment, and obtaining proper identification. The goal of a Social Worker and the guest is to look at the individual's past, face the present and reach for a healthy and independent future. The overall goal of both the Social Worker and all of First Light’s programs is to equip this person with skills, resources, ideas, and hope in order to reach one's fullest potential.
This cannot be done quickly. It is a process, not a quick solution. The guest and Social Worker assess the current situation, identify needs, and prioritize areas needing immediate action. From this point forward, a First Light guest is on a path of setting and achieving goals.