Bethlehem House

Bethlehem House

City: Conway
Category: Nonprofit Organization of the Year
Year: 2013

About 20 years ago, a group in Conway noticed that the city had a problem that wasn't especially obvious.

"The homeless population in Conway is not visible, necessarily," said Judy Lively. "In more urban areas you see encampments, gatherings under bridges, things like that. You don't see that in Conway. They tend to be much more solitary. So it's here. It's not as noticeable, but there's definitely a problem."

The discussion led to the formation of Bethlehem House, a shelter and rehabilitation program. Lively, its executive director, said shelter residents go through an interview process and then have 30 to 45 days to find a job.

"Once they get a job, 50 percent of their income goes into savings," Lively said. "That money is initially used to pay off past bills, child support, fines. The basic goal is to get to a zero debt level."

Residents are provided with food and clothing. They are also helped to earn a GED, if needed, and must stay drug- and alcohol-free.

"Our premise is helping people change their lives based on their willingness to do so," Lively said.

Lively said the program had capacity for 20 single adults and five families, and currently has 17 residents. In 2012, on annual revenue of about $570,000, the program had 108 total participants. Lively said 54 percent of last year's participants were "successes."

"I think of success as someone who maintained sobriety, or got their children back," Lively said. "But we tend to measure success based on whether or not they leave here and move into permanent housing."

Lively said the program's goal is a 60-65 percent success rate.

"We are very close to that," Lively said. "At this moment in time, we have a former resident on our board, a different former resident working for us and a couple of others who volunteer with us probably two or three times a month. So I think that speaks a lot about how they feel about the program, and how they have been impacted by the program and how they are interested in impacting the lives others."

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