The lighthouse rescue mission will receive a much-needed lifeline from Tulare City Council to help find solutions to the homeless crisis.
After a long wait, the council awarded a $500,000 grant to the faith-based nonprofit, located downtown. The lighthouse is one of the few resources available to the homeless community of Tulare. The money will be used to add beds for those without housing and to pay staff at the 24-hour emergency shelter.
The decision did not come without some resistance from council members. In the end, the motion passed unanimously.
“Two years ago, we started a project that was supposed to bring in $250,000 a year. We dangled that money in front of [Lighthouse]said Mayor Dennis Mederos. “We have community members who have served on this board, who have been dedicated to trying to alleviate this issue. If we make their job much more difficult, it doesn’t improve the situation…my attitude is to stay true to what we offered over two years ago.”
The money will be distributed to The Lighthouse Rescue Mission over a two-year period. In the first year, Lighthouse will use the money for operational support covering sanitation facilities, utilities, insurance and other maintenance and operating expenses.
There are currently 70 beds available for people on the streets of Tulare who turn to Lighthouse for help. The organization’s running costs are about $70,000 a month, Lighthouse CEO Dave Clevenger said at a recent Tulare City Council meeting.
The proposal indicates that the cost of operating the 16-bed emergency shelter for the first year will be approximately $251,741.
“The payroll for this particular proposal is to (staff) this shelter 24/7, which is a number of full-time equivalents for the entire year,” Clevenger said. “This 16-bed shelter allows the lighthouse to grow more permanently.”
The $500,000 grant will also free up other revenue streams focused on the Tulare Bold 2022 expansion operation.
This year, the shelter hopes to establish five permanent residences near H Street. The tiny homes will have the capacity to house two people or a small family.
According to Tulare Bold, the initiative aims to make these homes permanent for those “currently coming out of homelessness”. The goal is to house 60 men, 73 women and children, while 36 affordable housing units will be built.
Clevenger also said the grant money will allow Lighthouse to expand support services that will connect homeless people to permanent supportive housing, mental health and job training. This work was done by the organization before the grant was approved by the board.
Questions have been raised that Lighthouse is the perfect channel to invest money in.
“It is always difficult to obtain these funds from the available resources,” councilor Jose Sigala said. “I’m a little nervous trying to figure out what’s the best bang for our buck in terms of what we can do.”
Tulare Vice Mayor Terry Sayre initiated the motion which eventually passed.
“In good faith, we pledged this money. The Lighthouse has continued tirelessly to defend the homeless by providing them with living spaces, dignified work and giving them the opportunity to improve their lives”, a- she declared. “Their dedication to the Christian ethic is very important to me. To watch them not just speak but live the march, I 100% think we should allocate that money to them as soon as possible.”
Since 2004, Lighthouse has created a foundation for people trying to escape the realities of life on the streets of Tulare. In addition to providing temporary shelter, Lighthouse works with its residents by providing guaranteed jobs at its local thrift store and community jobs.
Lighthouse staff highlighted the successes.
“Since we started operating the emergency shelters, I would say at least 25 men and women have come through and now have full-time jobs,” chief executive Karen Beemus said.
Last year, Lighthouse helped over 400 homeless residents, which equates to a bed count of over 6,300.
“Stories of men who never had a job before, who didn’t have stable housing, are now working full time here in the Tulare community,” Beemus said. “Women have won custody of their children. All they needed was a roof over their heads, a stable place where they could sleep at night, shower [and] to be able to eat and live together.”