Guiding Light Opens Fifth Transitional Iron House

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

glm7The new Iron House provides an ongoing supportive community for men breaking free from alcohol and drug addictions. Guiding Light took another leap forward to help men break free from the bonds of alcohol, drug addictions and homelessness.

This is Guiding Light's fifth transitional housing facility at 557 Andover St. SE in Kentwood that it opened, known as the Iron House.

Guiding Light purchased the home for $250,000.

The ministry now has the capacity to house 35 men at one time.

Nearly 90 men treated so far

Iron House apartments are exclusively for men who have successfully finished Guiding Light's Recovery program. A separate facility near downtown Grand Rapids is for men who are enrolled in its Back to Work program.

Over the course of three and a half years, Guiding Light has treated nearly 90 men, 75 percent of whom remained sober after living in Iron House for one year.

"We work with men on a case by case basis: homeless or addictions, to get them back to work and pay off some debts," said Starla McDermott, Guiding Light's development director. "We provide affordable housing but they are still paying rent (average monthly rent is $450). They have a community of sober living comrades that actually helps their recovery."

Honing life skills

A key aspect to the Iron House's success is its focus on honing important life skills to better transition men back into society's mainstream.


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In addition to abstinence-based sobriety, men at the Iron House focus on honing life skills. This means Iron House residents all have jobs. They buy and prepare their own food, pay their own bills and engage with each other in the communal living situation. They look after and support each other, practicing community in the best way they can.

An extra push

"Challenging as it is, the Iron House model gives our men the extra push they need to step back into society while still providing them with a supportive community," said Stuart Ray, executive director at Guiding Light. "This new Iron House allows us to continue doing this work, which has overwhelmingly proven to be a crucial component in successful long-term recovery."

Guiding Light adds that men who do not move to Iron House but still complete its four-month Foundations program through Guiding Light Recovery have a lower rate of continued sobriety and a higher rate of relapse, with just 46 percent reporting as currently sober.

Saving Kent County money

The Iron House program helps to save Kent County money in social services. When men complete Guiding Light's Foundations phase and move into Iron House, every $1 donated to Guiding Light programming amounts to $5.23 saved in Kent County social services over the course of five years.

As a social enterprise, Iron House generates profits that are returned to Guiding Light to support the Back to Work and Recovery programs.

"Social enterprises can be powerful complements to other activities offered by a nonprofit as they advance both the social mission and sustainability of an organization," said Ray. "Funds from both our social enterprises – The Job Post, a hiring and recruitment firm, and Iron House – benefit the individuals who utilize our programs while also aiding in the financial sustainability of our programs."

Additional ministry services Guiding Light provides at its downtown Grand Rapids location are temporary shelter, substance abuse counseling, employment assistance called The Job Post and biblically based mentorship programs.


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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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