For more than four decades, the Samaritan House in Las Vegas has provided shelter, food, and job training for unhoused residents living in the San Miguel County area.
A group of citizens from a local Presbyterian church initially created the nonprofit as a center for transient youth in the Northern New Mexico city. They later offered a homeless shelter for adults and food distribution services. Housing assistance and addiction counseling were also added to fulfill a need.
“They can stay as long as they need,” said George F. Lyon, the nonprofit’s executive director, who said many residents stay on average between two and three months. “We are a significant food source for our area. We have a people’s choice food pantry – they can choose what they need for their household.”
The shelter, which also operates a thrift store, is the only shelter between the city of Las Vegas and Pueblo, CO, which is about a three-hour drive.
Lyon, who is from El Paso, TX, and has worked in shelters in three states and two different countries, initially came to the Las Vegas area for a faculty position at New Mexico Highlands University but took a job at the Samaritan House after seeing an ad.
Lyon, who has been the house’s director for the past six years, said he was discouraged with the local banks when the Samaritan House needed a loan for renovations and appliances, such as a commercial grade washer and dryer. The house now has a full commercial kitchen and a full laundry area.
The Samaritan House, which also received a line credit, was able to expand and receive other types of funding to find further help, such as social workers and counselors.
“The local banks said, ‘You are too risky and you may not get donations,’” Lyon said. “But The Loan Fund looked past it and really invested. We are thankful for that.”