Local non-profit Lighthouse is gaining steam in its movement to help fight homelessness and poverty in the community with food, shelter, transitional housing, affordable housing developments and other services, especially during holidays like Thanksgiving.
Lighthouse’s fundraising efforts are needed now more than ever to touch on the big spike in the local community’s needs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those needs are poised to grow due to eviction moratoriums being lifted and the colder months ahead.
Lighthouse, not one to back down from a challenge, is now renovating a building to create the only emergency shelter in Oakland County specifically designated for families.
Lighthouse President and CEO Ryan Hertz spoke to the Michigan Chronicle about how it’s handling the crises from its corner of the world head-on through fundraising efforts and creative measures to ensure others get the help they need especially after merging two non-profit organizations (Lighthouse of Oakland County and South Oakland Shelter) in 2019 to double their impact.
“Our initial focus before the pandemic was mostly to focus on the issue of housing affordability and when the pandemic hit several months after our merger, we kind of went back to our roots,” he said of helping with emergency shelter, food assistance, and more.
Lighthouse is continuing to provide emergency food and shelter to more clients and has a Thanks & Giving campaign to raise funds, donate dinners and more to assist families and provide follow-up care. As the holidays approach, Lighthouse hopes to continue these services, while also providing a full Thanksgiving meal to more than 2,000 families in need. They also hope to raise $100,000; over $41,000 has been donated as of press time. Find out more information here: https://www.lighthousemi.org/thanksgiving/.
Hertz added that the organization is continuing in the vein of helping those in need by addressing systemic issues, which have only ramped up since the pandemic.
“The pandemic dramatically impacted the need for emergency services… we were able to do much more effectively together,” Hertz said.
Some Lighthouse services include:
- Lighthouse partners with over 60 local congregations. Each week, a congregation takes on the responsibility of hosting SOS’s shelter guests and provides them with overnight accommodations, three daily meals, transportation and meaningful interactions with caring volunteers.
Emergency Food Distribution
- Lighthouse has two operating food pantries in Pontiac and Clarkston, as well as a food packing and distribution warehouse in Waterford. Lighthouse’s emergency food efforts have increased from servicing 500 people to providing emergency food to up to 5,000 individuals weekly.
Housing Assistance Programs
- Lighthouse works to keep people in their homes and move individuals and families from homelessness to housing as quickly as possible. They provide assistance and supportive services to tenants of public housing commissions and private landlords.
Hertz said that Lighthouse works collaboratively with other organizations, especially around the holidays, to spread a bit of needed cheer.
“The holidays and cold weather draw attention to the need for shelter, food and warmth,” he said. “We operate year-round. We try to focus the attention we receive this time of year around providing those we serve with a sense of warmth and joy during the holidays despite the crises and challenges they’re facing. Much more attention is given to the services we provide at this season we try to focus that on really trying to normalize and create a sense of warmth and joy.”
Hertz added that people tend to be a lot more charitable, especially at the end of the year, and with Oakland County being an economically robust county, some people don’t always think about the needs in their own backyard and beyond. He added that there are “pockets of poverty” throughout the county and in at least every school district, scores of students deal with homelessness.
“If we support community initiatives to increase affordable housing … to support organizations like Lighthouse that focus on stability [we] … do what we can to make sure nobody is forced to go without in our community, and everybody has access to … have a stronger quality of life.”
More information about Lighthouse can be found here: https://www.lighthousemi.org/
Current Lighthouse fundraising campaigns can be found here: https://handup.org/campaigns/response