News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 2, 2008

Light House Mission seeing more people in cold weather

Between 115 and 135 currently staying at Mission; room available

By Crystal Garcia

TERRE HAUTE — Ernie Hollis has been noticing some new faces around the Light House Mission lately, something he said is not uncommon given the cold weather.

Hollis, who worked at the Highland Lawn Cemetery for 27 years, has been living at the Light House Mission Ministries Inc. for 13 years, he said.

“The Lord took care of me here,” Hollis said of the Mission near 15th Street and Wabash Avenue.

And it appears the same is happening for others because Hollis said he’s never seen anyone turned away.

Between 115 and 135 people are staying at the Mission, which has a capacity of 250, said the Rev. Timothy Fagg, CEO of the Ministries. Some residents, such as Hollis, pay for their lodging there, while others worse off stay there rent-free.

Fagg said they’ve seen a few more people check in recently along with a couple of people police have found and brought in.

With the January weather getting colder, Fagg said people should not be afraid to come in.

“We just try to encourage people that if they really need to be in here, to get in here,” he said, “not to stay out somewhere and take a chance freezing to death.”

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Koch, Wednesday’s overnight low was 4 degrees with a wind chill of minus 5. He said Wednesday’s high was 14 degrees with a wind chill of zero to minus 5.

Normal weather for this time of year is 20 degrees, Koch said.

This winter blast isn’t expected to last long, though, with temperatures expected to warm up gradually to the upper 20s today, and reach the lower 40s by Friday. Koch said it’s expected to be 45 degrees Saturday and 55 by Sunday.

Being from Texas, Michael Ray said he’s not used to such cold weather.

Ray and his wife, Karlla, were kicked out of their home when his wife’s grandmother found out about their marriage, he said.

The Rays had trouble finding the Mission because they’re not from the area, but they were glad when they did. He said finding a place such as the Mission was a good temporary fix for them.

Not only is the Mission seeing an increase in overnight stays, Fagg said, but the cold also is giving them about a 10 percent increase in the amount of people who come in for meals.

For breakfast, lunch and dinner, he said they serve at least 450 people a day.

While Fagg said they have enough food now, they can always use more.

“We can always use food,” he said. “When you’re seeing the numbers of 450-plus a day and so if you have that every day, I’m sure it’ll start depleting the supply of food.”

Increases like this one mainly happen during the cold in the winter, Fagg said. There isn’t too much of an increase even in the hottest weather of summer, he said.

“Summertime, you have a pretty good influx of people eating and so forth,” he said, “and summertime, they’ll stay out in the park and take a dip out in the park. But you can’t hardly do that in the winter.”

Crystal Garcia can be reached at (812) 231-4271 or crystal.garcia@tribstar.com.