Located in Fort Wayne, the Shepherd’s House currently has several openings for veterans who may be homeless dealing with drug or alcohol addictions.
By JOE SHOUSE

Progress Staff Writer


FORT WAYNE – We live in a world where drugs are prevalent in all directions and places. It’s not just large cities or far away lands but it is near - very near. No town, no community, no family is exempt from the horror of drugs, drug addiction, and even alcohol abuse.

Talk to any law enforcement group and they will tell you drugs is life’s detour that will destroy. In the sleepy communities of Paulding County, the pain that drug and alcohol abuse brings is very much alive.

In the midst of destruction, whether it be hooked on heroin or drinking “one more” in order to sleep at night, there is always hope. For military men and women who have enlisted for a period of time, the memory and hardship of what they may have witnessed has led many of them down that same road that simply detours and for many the turn they make is a wrong turn.

Recently the Paulding Progress received an email from Joshua Keeler. I contacted Keeler, who identified himself as the late Paul Keeler’s son. Paul was a former Paulding Police Chief from 1983-95 and was tragically killed in June 2012 while attempting to repair a tire on his pickup truck along U.S. 127 near Ohio 613.

That’s about all I knew of Joshua but as we talked, I learned much more about who this young man is and who he has become.

He wanted me to know of a place where he worked called the Shepherd’s House located in Fort Wayne because of the drug problems in the surrounding area including Paulding County.

Joshua simply told me in my initial call with him that he worked at the Shepherd’s House, a transitional living center for homeless and disabled veterans that specializes in drug and alcohol addiction as well as other addictions.

“I am aware of the growing number of veterans, some homeless, who are dealing with drug abuse and it’s not only here in Fort Wayne but its all around us, even in Paulding County. Our facility is a 41-bed facility and normally we are maxed out but currently we have eight open beds and would like to pass the word on to those in Paulding County that we exist to help those even in Ohio,” said Keeler.

After our conversation I contacted the CEO/owner of the Shepherd’s House, Barb Cox. She, along with her husband Lonnie, are co-founders of the 30,000 square foot converted house.

“By operating and maintaining a facility to help fallen heroes get back up on their feet we are able to help do our part in maintaining a stable society by people who can contribute to society as a whole. Statistics show by using our facility that 83% of people who have been in Shepherd’s House have successfully completed the program and have become working citizens in the community. We believe in the power of positive thinking and are true providers for those who need and seek our help,” Cox said.

Cox, an energetic individual who believes strongly in what she and Lonnie are doing, feels that no honorably discharged veteran should be homeless regardless of their situation.

“We help those who need help and give them a comfortable warm place to stay. Rehabilitation is in our hands through the work of God and through him we are blessing those who need blessed.

“By providing a safe warm place to live and showing that there are people who care, we are able to help those veterans back on their feet in time of need. After all, they were there for us when we were in need and this is just our way of giving back to those who need us and maintain a mainstay in our community,” continued Cox.

Vets with drug additions or alcohol problems can come to Shepherd’s House and they don’t have to bring anything. They are given toiletries, a welcome kit, bedding, clothing and food. They don’t have to do anything but come in and make a commitment to stay clean and sober and work a recovery program.

Shepherd’s House is like a giant home with a lot of structure for a multitude of people who find themselves feeling hopeless because they’re addicted to drugs or have alcohol problems; 99 percent of them are veterans.

Shepherd’s House is a long term, residential/transitional housing center for individuals who are alcohol and/or chemically addicted men, 18 years or older. The facility is located on the northeast side of Fort Wayne.

Participants are asked to make a personal commitment to the recovery program. The program offers education and therapy regarding alcoholism and/or chemical dependency and recovery. Participants attend daily recovery sessions and have access to spiritual counselors and caring staff who assist them with the creation of an effective support system.

The structured approach is designed to help the individual develop a solid foundation of sobriety. They are held accountable to the rehabilitation community for behavior as well as for the completion of daily work assignments. Dignity and a healthy self-image are viewed as basic to recovery.

There is an intake process and a lot of rules and a lot of surveillance cameras. The beautiful facility that houses those being helped allow them to live there free for up to two years. There is no cost for their stay but there is one hitch; they must stay sober.

According to Cox, Shepherd’s House works with social workers and a lot of recovery meetings and classes while in collaboration with the Veterans’ Affairs, WorkOne and veterans’ centers. The minimum stay here is six months and the maximum is two years, or longer if they need it.

Clients start out in an eight-man bedroom and if they do well they go into a four-man room, then a two-man room and then they’re on their own in the rooms on the second floor. It’s all incentive-based.

Shepherd’s House believes that the bondage of addiction, whether alcoholism, chemical dependence, gambling or other dependence, can and will be broken by the power of Jesus Christ.

“Experience has shown us that those who successfully complete the program, bond with the twelve-step communities, develop a strong spiritual foundation, and stay clean and sober for the first year, three out of four will have lasting sobriety,” said Cox.

Essentially the goal at Shepherd’s House is to rebuild the lives of those who society views as hopeless into sober, productive assets to the community, relieving the welfare roles and putting the “unemployable” back into society, employed and empowered with a vision of hope for the future.

That brings me back to my second call to Joshua. After talking to Barb Cox, I wanted to talk to Joshua again. After all, he was instrumental in this story and getting the word out that hope is available.

Joshua told me initially that he worked at the Shepherd’s House but what he didn’t tell me was that he volunteered at the house. He also told me during our second conversation that at one time he was one of those veterans that hit rock bottom and went seeking help.

“I was a part of the program for three years. It’s not a super easy program but it helped me. It was a great program. If it wasn’t for Shepherd’s House I probably wouldn’t be alive,” Keeler said.

The mission statement for the Shepherd’s House is to rebuild those who society views as the hopeless into sober, employed, responsible assets to the community and to their families.

Today, Keeler has been out on his own for five months and has his own apartment in Fort Wayne. A success story thanks to the Shepherd’s House.

“I wish my dad could see me now. I think he would be proud of me and what I have been able to achieve,” Keeler said.

If there is a veteran who fits the description of what this story is about, give Barb Cox a call at 260-705-7642. It will be the best call you can make. A life changer. Just ask Joshua.