This Christmas is special for Chyann Devers and her two children.
After living at Anchor House Family Assistance Center in Seymour for two months, they moved out in early November, and Devers, 26, now has a job and her own apartment.
And for the first time, they have their own Christmas tree, which little by little they have covered in decorations.
“This is the first time on my own, like completely by myself,” she said. “But I’m adjusting thanks to Anchor House.”
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Devers was homeless for three months before being accepted at the shelter. She had been on a waiting list for about two weeks, she said.
“After people kept saying no to helping us, these guys finally said yes,” she said.
At first, Devers said she didn’t want to live at Anchor House because she didn’t know anything about the facility.
But she got used to the regular chores of cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, taking care of her 7-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son and all of the other normal tasks that are required to maintain a household.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I’m glad I came.”
Anchor House residents are required to take classes in managing personal finances, nutrition and parenting and must secure employment and start saving money for when they transition out of the facility. They also must remain drug- and alcohol-free and follow curfews.
Having been on her own since she was 16, this is the first time Devers said she has ever received any kind of assistance in getting on her feet other than food stamps.
“They helped a lot,” Devers said of the staff and programs at Anchor House. “I learned how to be independent. They showed me a lot of things I didn’t learn as a child or even when I got older.”
She also has learned to be more careful with whom she allows to be around her and the kids, something she said is important to stay out of trouble and keep her family safe.
“My kids are depending on me,” she said.
Devers is just one of many of Anchor House’s success stories.
“It’s a good program, and if you take in what they give, then it can work,” she said.
The rules can be strict, but they are in place for a reason, Devers added.
“These are normal rules you have to follow if you want to be successful when you get out in the real world,” she said.
On Dec. 7, Devers and her children returned to Anchor House for a special Christmas party with current and former residents. Santa came and distributed wrapped presents to all of the children. The toys were donated, and the snacks for the party were provided and served by Goodwill in Seymour.
The children smiled and laughed while opening their presents while the parents socialized.
Deb Bedwell, executive director of Anchor House, said without the support of the community and all of those who donate money, food, supplies or volunteer at the shelter, it wouldn’t be able to operate and help as many people as it does.
But that support is needed year-round, not just at Christmas, Bedwell said. And now that the facility has expanded to serve even more families, the need is even greater, she added.
In the fall of 2015, a project to renovate the two apartment buildings on South Vine Street just north of Anchor House was completed through a grant from the Cummins Foundation, allowing the facility to house seven families instead of four.
The facility’s community pantry also was renovated and expanded this past spring.
“We’re taking care of more families now,” she said. “We are feeding more people. The holidays are going to come and go, and we’re still going to be here feeding people.”
To pay for higher electric and phone bills and other ongoing expenses, Bedwell said financial support must continue.
“Please don’t forget us,” she said. “The community needs to know that we are making changes in people’s lives.”
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For information on how to donate to Anchor House, call 812-522-9308.
You also can visit the shelter’s website at anchorhouseshelter.org or find it on Facebook by searching Anchor House.