With this issue being the month that we honor fathers, I thought it would be the perfect time to highlight an organization that helps men. I was privileged to get a personal tour of Samaritan Ministries Shelter for Homeless Men from Chuck Laggan, the founder. To say I was impressed with what they have done and are doing is an understatement!
I asked Chuck, who worked in the railroad industry for 50 years, how this ministry came to be. “I was asked to be on a board for another organization that wanted to do something to help the homeless in Hot Springs. Although that organization did not materialize, it made me aware of what a huge need there was for a program here. On any given night when we started, there were around 300 homeless people in our city, mostly men,” Chuck explained. “So, my wife, Jan, and I created Samaritan Ministries of Hot Springs in 2003. We started raising funds and were able to purchase the main building which was an old warehouse. With the help of volunteers, we transformed that empty shell into what you see today.”
This building is able to house 28 overnight guests and also 14 who are in the 10-month residential program. Overnight guests (all men) can check in between 4 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. They are provided a snack, shower, and clothing if needed and then attend a 45-minute chapel service. These are Christian messages with a focus on encouragement. At 7 p.m. they are served a hot dinner which is cooked by volunteers or staff in the organization’s full commercial kitchen. “We had 150 volunteers before COVID, and then that number went down to 0! We are rebuilding that but can always use volunteers,” Chuck told me.
The resident program is for men who are ready to turn their lives around and just need some help to do that! They have all their meals and even laundry facilities provided to them at no charge (Samaritan Ministries does not charge for any of their services), however, they do have jobs around the facility that are assigned to each of them. Education is also a big part of the program.
The next part of our tour was the new building that they acquired in 2013. It contains the workshop where the men create beautiful wooden products. These are sold in The Repurposed Woodworkers' Store at the front of the complex and also at craft fairs and the Hot Springs Farmers' Market. While 100% of the funds raised from these sales go to support the homeless shelter, it also helps the men learn job skills and repurpose their lives.
When Chuck took me down another hallway, I couldn’t believe what I saw. There was a row of doors that contain seven apartments. There are four brand-new studio apartments that each have its own kitchen and bath. These rent for the low price of $350 a month with all utilities included! They also have three slightly larger, one-bedroom apartments that rent for a little more, and not surprisingly, they only have one still available. I was once again surprised when Chuck opened the last door showing me a two-story, three-bedroom apartment. “This is for a family,” he explained. “Sometimes, because of the situation, a man is separated from his wife and family. So, we can provide a nice place for them to live at about half the going rate and help bring that family unit back together.”
The complex also contains Samaritan Crossing, which houses local businesses. There are a few storefronts still available but with the great location and beautiful venue, I am sure they will not be open for long! The rent from these businesses goes to help support the homeless ministry. There will also be an open-air marketplace that is scheduled to open soon.
When I first spoke with Jan, I could hear her heart for what they do, and talking to Chuck was no different. “God has been good to us and has been in this since day one,” Chuck stated. “Everything you see here is paid for, and with the generous work of volunteers, our donors, and our fundraising efforts, we are totally debt free!”
Speaking of fundraisers, Samaritan Ministries will be hosting their Annual Fundraising Dinner on October 22nd this year. Last year they sold out, so be sure to check out their website, Samaritanhs.org, for ticket information!
Some of the needs of Samaritan Ministries Hot Springs are men’s clothing and shoes, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, food donations and of course, monetary donations are always appreciated. If you would like to donate or find out more about volunteering, contact them at 501-321-2888.