Brighter Days opens doors as Columbus’ emergency housing shelter

What was once just an idea that people needing emergency shelter in Columbus could find help in one location is now a reality.

Prayers of blessing were offered Sunday from many of the faithful who support Love Chapel, an outreach program of the Ecumenical Assembly of Bartholomew County Churches, as staff and volunteers prepared to begin operating Brighter Days Housing,

The first clients — about 20 of them — registered Monday night at the shelter, 421 S. Mapleton St., in what had formerly served as Columbus Township’s fire truck maintenance facility.

The once-cavernous garage now is a modern looking group-housing facility, with bunk rooms for men and women, modern bathrooms and home-like artwork on newly painted walls. The building has all new mechanicals, with the modern touch of allowing the spiral ductwork to be visible from the rooms below.

Bunk beds provided through a $40,000 grant from Cummins fill the two housing areas, with comfortable foam mattresses and pillows. A shipment of wool blankets arrived Monday morning. Much of the office furniture and chairs was donated by the former Volunteers in Medicine, including throw rugs that warm the concrete floors.

Columbus photographer Bob Anderson, who owns Stillframes on Canvas, donated about 22 pieces of artwork after touring the shelter.

“I’ve always liked to help out in the community, and I asked (Love Chapel executive director) Liz Kestler, ‘How would you like to have some artwork on the wall?'” Anderson said.

He lined the artwork along a wall and began matching it to the rooms where it would best match, including a three-panel piece of flowers in the women’s bunk area. A photo of the Robert Stewart bridge is near the entrance in a hallway.

The building’s transformation to a housing shelter is the latest public/private partnership, this one between Love Chapel and the township, to provide emergency shelter for single adults in a more cost-effective and proactive approach, which includes case management for each individual who seeks shelter there.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.