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Area shelter offers a change for the better
A famous parable tells the story of a Samaritan who generously gives his time and resources to help a stranger in need. Following the story’s benevolent example, the Good Samaritan Shelter of Ephrata offers safe, free housing and support to homeless women and their children while assisting them toward independence.
Although the shelter’s purpose is to provide for the immediate physical needs of women and their children, it is also a place where lives are being changed for the better. This change is the result of their interdisciplinary program that includes case management, house management and mentorship.
“This is not just a place for people to live,” stated Nate Hoffer, executive director of the shelter. “We want to see people move out in a few months on their own.”
According to Hoffer, the shelter is a nonprofit operation and much of its success is due to the generosity of the community. Local businesses, like Martin’s Flooring and Alwine Security, have contributed greatly to the facility’s improvement. The MOMS Club of Ephrata offers ongoing support to the shelter, as do area churches.
In addition, shelter residents can participate in a matched savings program sponsored by National Penn Bank.
Hoffer claims that it is through the combined efforts of the community that 70 percent-80 percent of the shelter’s residents are able to move out on their own.
The popularity of the shelter is apparent in that it is usually filled to capacity. The shelter doesn’t advertise its services. Most residents hear about the program by word of mouth or are referred by area churches.
Although the shelter is a Christian ministry, it is not affiliated with a specific church and it does not require that residents have a Christian faith.
Current resident Brittany Fisher appreciates the staff at the shelter and the assistance they have given her.
“Everybody who works here are wonderful people,” she said. “Just being in here for 4 ½ months, I’ve come a long way. I even made a video on You Tube to tell other people who don’t have anywhere to go.”
As someone who has been struggling on her own since she was 17 years old, Fisher is grateful for the opportunity to secure a better life. Her situation is typical of many of the shelter’s residents who have had limited family support and are lacking the skills necessary to successful independent living.
Many of the shelter’s residents are single mothers with a history of moving from place to place without being able to gain security for themselves or their children. Fortunately, these women have a chance to improve their lives through the shelter’s program.
Although the staff at the shelter plays a valuable role in resident success, Hoffer believes that the most important part of the shelter’s ministry is the mentorship program. Through this program, volunteer mentors establish relationships with shelter residents and provide a significant amount of support and guidance.
“The most effective thing we do here,” said Hoffer, “is our mentorship program. The residents love their mentors because they care about them.”
As a resident who has benefited from the mentorship program Fisher said, “My mentor is someone who talks to me and is there for me no matter what. I even go to her church, Evangel Assembly of God, each Sunday. A van picks me and other residents up.”
Fisher is an example of the positive impact of the shelter’s program on women in need.
“Before I came here, I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. I wasn’t working, and I was relying on people,” stated Fisher. “Now I’m working six days a week and I love it. I’m participating in the matched savings program and I’m looking for an apartment.”
Fisher’s success at the shelter reflects the overall philosophy of the program.
“We are fulfilling God’s teaching to love our neighbor and take care of their physical needs,” said Hoffer. “We’re not judging them. We’re loving them where they’re at.”
Although the shelter is a place of acceptance, Hoffer emphasizes that it is not a rehab or a mental health facility. Residents must pass an entry drug test and continuing random drug testing in order to qualify for housing. If an applicant has a substance abuse problem or mental health need, the shelter refers them to other services.
Hoffer admits that management of the shelter requires his constant attention beyond the typical work day.
“We’re not a 9-5 operation,” he said, “but I love helping people and the business part of the work is a perfect match for me.”
There is an apparent abundance of love and support being offered at the Good Samaritan Shelter, where a devoted staff and caring community are working together to make a positive difference. Their dedicated service is making the world of homeless women a better and more hope filled place.
Women or women with children who are experiencing homelessness or are in danger of becoming homeless can contact the shelter through their web address at goodsamshelter.org.