It didn’t seem like things could get much worse. After all, the woman was already raising her infant daughter while living in an abusive relationship. But then the family was evicted from their home and her partner left. Now she was on her own, with few resources.
After couch surfing for months, the woman entered Agape Home for women at The Lighthouse Mission. That’s when everything started to improve. After just four weeks there, she’s employed, attending school and creating a new life for herself and her daughter.
Despite all The Lighthouse Mission already contributes to our community, they just keep topping themselves. They’re constantly creating new programs and thinking of innovative ways to help those in need.
“We get a lot of families from domestic violence,” says Hans Erchinger-Davis, Lighthouse Mission director.
It can be difficult to help victims of domestic abuse find stable homes. Section 8 housing is rarely a possibility, as Bellingham vacancy rates stand at only half of one percent. If families are able to find Section 8 homes, they’re only allowed to stay a few months before moving on. And that’s just the beginning.
Most women in this situation have a history of evictions – or no rental history at all, if their spouse was on the rental paperwork. This spells trouble in Bellingham’s competitive rental market.
“Landlords don’t want someone with bad credit and evictions if they can get a student with their parents paying rent,” says Erchinger-Davis. “It’s not a wise business decision.”
Instead of admitting defeat in a difficult market, Erchinger-Davis saw these issues as challenges to overcome. He found a big-hearted benefactor who has silently offered $500,000 as collateral for the women in need.
The Lighthouse Mission took this benefactor’s generous donation and put it into a nest egg to assure landlords that their investment is safe in case of nonpayment or home damage.
“The Mission is following up with the women and children, making sure they are fine,” says Erchinger-Davis. “Now there are fewer moms and children homeless because of this. It’s working out wonderfully. We do it for a year and after that, they have a year of good rental history.”
After one year, the Mission is released from the contract and the women can either stay in the home or move on.
The Lighthouse Mission not only helps people in life, they’ve also begun an afterlife service. When people pass away on the streets, they’re often left with no funeral or family to remember them.
“People are often faced with their own mortality when they live on the streets,” says Erchinger-Davis. “They’re in violent situations, they worry about if they die, who will remember them?”
These services make a difference to both the living and the deceased. “It brings closure,” says Erchinger-Davis. “Sometimes it makes people realize they’d like to turn their lives around and makes them feel better that they won’t be forgotten. We’re working with people from cradle to grave here.”
Watching the memorials often moves other residents to turn their lives around and ask for help with drug addiction.
These services resonate with people, who remember The Mission and know it’s always a place they can come home to.
One man who had previously stayed at the Mission was living and working as a janitor in Tuscan, Arizona. Unfortunately, he started stealing drugs, plunging him into a downward spiral.
Fortunately, he remembered The Lighthouse Mission and knew that it was a safe space to go and get help. He bought a bus ticket and headed back, fighting suicidal thoughts the entire way.
When he arrived, his bunkmate, a recovering addict and Pentecostal minister, helped him work through his mental baggage.
“He was driven by the shames,” says Erchinger-Davis. “He grew up with a difficult childhood. He needed the sense of being forgiven and the sense that he was valuable enough to not need his shame anymore.”
The man experienced a moment of clarity, forgave himself for all his past transgressions and decided it was time to move on. After this breakthrough, he entered the Mission’s addiction recovery program.
“That’s not uncommon,” says Erchinger-Davis. “People are hauling giant backpacks loaded with shame and self-hatred all over this city.”
Each person who graces the Mission’s doorway has a story. Some are down and out from a poor childhood, others are trapped in cycles of poverty and abuse; mental health problems and drug addiction are often complicating factors.
The Lighthouse Mission is continually recognized for giving people experiencing homelessness something to strive for, something to believe in, and a reason to smile.
The Mission was recently selected as the first nonprofit Community Spotlight highlighted by Judd & Black Appliance as community leaders.
Help support this important work by donating on their web page. Lighthouse Mission will host a Light in the Night Gala and Auction on March 2 at the Four Points by Sheraton. Book your tickets soon for an entertaining, black-tie event, which always sells out. The evening promises to be a fun event, with incredible potential.