If there is one thing that the staff of Brighter Days Housing has learned as it approaches its first anniversary, it’s that it is a lot harder to run a 24/7 housing shelter than it looks.
That’s the assessment of Elizabeth Kestler, executive director of the Ecumenical Assembly of Bartholomew County Churches, who provides volunteers and staff to run the facility, and Columbus Township Trustee Ben Jackson, who provides the building.
Brighter Days opened a year ago this month in a former township firetruck maintenance facility renovated by contractors and volunteers into a modern group-housing facility. The shelter is housing 18 to 35 people a night, some who stay multiple nights, Kestler said. Total night occupancy for the year is more than 4,000 visits, Kestler said.
The facility tracks where individuals are coming from, and where they are going when they leave. Notes are kept on an individual’s circumstances, what help was offered and accepted and how many times the individual sought help at Brighter Days, and when they did not return.
For example, one individual was referred to the shelter Nov. 11, 2016, and stayed for one night. The individual returned Nov. 22, but then moved in with a relative. The individual returned March 10 and stayed for three nights.
Tending to such individuals has required more work and more volunteers than anticipated.
“This is really hard work,” Jackson said.
For more on this story, see Tuesday’s Republic.