In Oct. 28 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
Just driving by the old Shiloh Motel in Russell Springs, it's hard not to notice the bee hive of activity creating an improved fašade and a new mission for the building.
Soon, the former motel will be converted into Transition House, a transitional housing facility to help folks in need of assistance toward attaining and sustaining a home of their own.
Transition House is a dream come true for local minister Tony Stephens who has a heart for helping those in need with a "teach them to fish" approach.
Stephens has seen a growing need for a local program to help not only transient travelers who need shelter for a night but also for homeless working families who need a temporary home until they can support themselves.
As the treasurer of Russell County Ministerial Association for 12 years, Stephens learned thousands of dollars were spent each year on hotel costs to provide shelter for folks passing through the county.
"You would not believe the number of people that used to come through Russell County and say we're here and we don't have a place to stay and would end up on the porch of a church and say 'Take care of me'," said Stephens.
For many years, there was an interdenominational effort to provide temporary shelter for folks by putting them up in local hotels but there was a history of abuse and people who took advantage of the generosity.
The Russell County Emergency Shelter group emerged from a process to identify a better way to serve people and protect the organizations and businesses who help them.
In the first year they were formed, the emergency shelter group built Harbor House, a temporary shelter in Jamestown.
Harbor House was originally built for transients but now also serves as temporary housing for abused women and families whose homes are lost to fire or natural disaster.
With the emergency shelter group and Harbor House, there is a set guideline in place to handle someone who has nowhere to go for the night.
"There's a plan so if someone goes to a local business and says they don't have anywhere to stay for the night then the manager calls the police and the police get them checked into the Harbor House," Stephens said. "Abuse has been pretty much been cut out. We want to help people but we don't want to be taken advantage of."
After several years of being involved in helping people in need, Stephens says it take about $1,200 and $1,500 to get a family settled in with all the deposits required up front to establish themselves in housing.
Even with a job, families may have to wait 2 weeks to get paid and when they get their first check, it's gone already in trying to get caught up.
"We've had people come into our office and say 'Hey we're here we're working but we can't come up with $1,000," Stephens said. "It's hearing that time after time that made us see the need for transitional housing."
"These were good people that were making a contribution to the community who want to settle down here and we were just hurting for them but what could we do?"
Seeing the growing need of individuals and families who are trying to make a living and just need a little help in the right direction birthed the idea for Transition House.
The emphasis is on a transitional housing program to help people get through a difficult time from just getting started to getting on their feet after a setback.
"Now with transitional housing we're going to the next step and helping people for a longer period of time - people who want to help themselves," said Stephens.
This summer, Stephens said there was a man and wife that came into town when the husband got a job at Fruit of the Loom.
They had nowhere to live so they lived in a tent on Campground Rd. for about 5 weeks.
It is people like this couple that may find help at Transition House.
"He was a go getter," said Stephens. "His supervisor said he was the real deal. I wish we could've had (Transition House) ready for them."
Transition House will have 8 well appointed apartments for extended stay and 3 emergency rooms for single night stays.
"They're nicer than most apartments in the county," Stephens said. "That's what we want because we want people to realize they are important, they are significant, and there's a chance for them."
The maximum extended stay is 12 months and the program requires residents maintain a job and pay a small amount for rent.
"There will be a cost but it will be a fraction of what they would pay elsewhere," said Stephens. "Rent will be salary based and set up on a formula so they can start saving money."
The renovation of the Shiloh Motel to Transition House was made possible by a government grant obtained through assistance from Lake Cumberland Area Development District.
"Our goal is to be open by January and have an open house," said Stephens. "Right now the construction teams are finishing up. We're hoping sometime in November to start moving furniture in."
Outside, the building will be painted and the parking lot finished with new landscaping to improve the appearance of the area.
He said the county owns the facility and the property and is accountable to the government for project but the Russell County Emergency Shelter group will oversee it.
"Hopefully because of what we've done with the Harbor House and what we've done with the Ministerial Association up to this point, we've learned what we shouldn't do," said Stephens. "Our goal is to help people stay here and get on their feet and be contributing members of the community."
There will be an information meeting at Jamestown Christian Church at the Family Life Center at 6 p.m. November 18th for anyone interested in the job as director of Transition House.
Anyone interested can get an application at the meeting.
"Our plans are that this is going to be a good thing. The idea is to help people who are willing to help themselves," said Stephens. "When (Transition House) is finished, it's going to help the neighborhood."
For more information regarding Transition House, contact Tony Stephens at 270-343-4570.