Shelter director finds hope in tenants

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Tammy Cannon, center, a tenant of the Lighthouse Home, talks with a housemate that didn’t want to be identified on Friday along with Founder and Director Vanessa Scaife Rorie, right, at the nonprofit home.

By Corey Davis
Staff Writer

For more than 10 years, Vanessa Scaife Rorie, director of The Lighthouse Home Inc. has created a safe environment inside a house in Rocky Mount for women who are homeless and recovering from addiction.

Ironically, in the past few months, Rorie has leaned on the women she helps to get on their feet again, after becoming blind in both of her eyes.

“When the women at the Lighthouse realized the severity of the illness, they became more spiritual beings, so I wouldn’t be afraid,” Rorie said. “I could feel them unifying in the home and extending more support to a new resident, who is fighting alcoholism. When I lost my sight, that should’ve caused the doors to close, but it didn’t happen that way. The women became my sight. I wasn’t losing anything; it was an even exchange.”

While she continues to take in women struggling with substance abuse, Rorie said the majority of the women living in the house are homeless, including Donna Henry, who has been in the house for about 10 months.

Despite having a bachelor’s degree in business, Henry said, there were several unfortunate occurrences which resulted in her ending up at The Lighthouse Home. She got laid off from her job, evicted from her apartment and suffered medical issues.

Henry is on the verge of losing her things in storage because she cannot pay the storage bill.

“I really got depressed and someone told me about Vanessa,” she said. “I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be accepted because I didn’t have an addiction, but she took me in. I do work one day a week and I try to pull my weight around here as well. All the women around here are sort of like sisters.”

Not only is Rorie the director, but she also is like a counselor and motherly figure, too, Henry said.

“My goal is to try to find a good job, so I can take care of myself again, which would open up a spot for another woman in need to have my place,” she said.

Rorie, who has been a licensed massage therapist for the past two years to bring in income, said the main priority for The Lighthouse Home is being reinstated as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. She said it would help with urgent needs for the house such as finishing repairs in the bathrooms.

“Saving $800 for the nonprofit application fee is now taking a backseat,” Rorie said. “Friends, family and my Unitarian Universalist fellowship have donated house supplies to take some of the financial burden down. My medication expenses for my eyes are the biggest challenge, and holding onto the new resident struggling with alcoholism is a challenge. But if anyone needs to be there it is her, a woman in the dark. There is plenty of light to to go around. Time, encouragment, food or anything to secure the stability of the home is needed.”

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