Guiding Light Mission sees $250K expansion
As far as expansions are concerned, it’s been one of the biggest and most expensive years ever for Guiding Light Mission.
The gospel rescue shelter, a local nonprofit that helps rehabilitate and employ troubled men, has seen major growth this past year, adding a $125,000 transitional home four-plex in Kentwood, and putting another $125,000 into a 300-square-foot bathroom expansion and a 500-square-foot expansion and renovation for five offices and a prayer room in its headquarters, located at 255 South Division Ave. in downtown Grand Rapids.
The money for the renovations came from a supporter who wished to remain anonymous, said Executive Director Stuart Ray, while the money that paid for the transition house came from years of responsible financial stewardship.
The house will be utilized by eight of Guiding Light’s men who have “hit key performance indicators,” Ray said.
“We’ve signed master leases for the guys in the shelter, we can guarantee rent at a certain threshold,” he said. “Right now, we’re $350 a month for rent and utilities … the men will be coming from shelter as they transition into community.”
Guiding Light wants to continue closing the gap around community housing, Ray said, because too many locals are coming to him after losing homes or apartments because the price of living was too high. Individuals were at fault for their own poor financial choices, he said, but something does still need to be done to maintain affordable housing.
“An average market rent is $800 a month for the city of Grand Rapids. That’s out of the reach of most of these guys, so we said to ourselves, ‘if we’re going to really prevent relapse … we need to look at getting into the housing business,’” he said.
“There needs to be some right sizing, because $800 a month is getting a little out of whack for most Grand Rapidians. You do see the nonprofit community stepping up and helping with that right now.”
In the past four years, GLM has gone from a staff of three to a staff of 16, Ray said, and his team is still discussing adding more. GLM’s mission to retrain and employ men who have hit rock bottom requires specialized counselors and spiritual mentors, he said, although the business connections are usually made through GLM’s network.
“You’d be surprised,” he said. “This AA (alcoholics anonymous) network is pretty expansive. You’d be surprised by some of the brand names of folks in that system, so they’re really reaching back trying to help folks.”
The men, who come from a diverse range of business backgrounds, spend an average of about 240 days before finding solid work, Ray said.
“The men in our substance recovery program will all have jobs before they leave,” he said. “We really encourage them not to leave until they’re sustainable.”
In 2012, GLM reported that its team helped 161 men find full-time employment and sustainable housing, served 72,415 free meals, provided 27,908 overnight stays, provided 730 chapel services and hosted 99 people in a drug and alcohol recovery program.