Below is the letter that was published in the Pioneer on September 16, 2014.
To the Editor,
I want to thank Emily Grove-Davis for her well researched and compassionate article in last week’s Pioneer about the homeless family in Big Rapids spending their days at Hemlock Park and nights sleeping with their toddler on the floor of a local church foyer. Certainly this article touched the hearts of the caring people in this community. Hopefully it also caused outrage at the injustices that cause such homelessness.
People do not realize the many reasons for losing housing. In our experience at Our Brothers Keeper Shelter, most of our guests are burdened by mental and physical illness, developmental delay and lack of education and employable skills, and suffer various types of addiction. These are people who do not know how to navigate services, who do not understand the “rules” the middle class live by and who have estranged and unhealthy relationships due to their disabilities.
Going into the third year of operation, OBK has served nearly 300 homeless people; single adult men and women, couples and families with young children. We have provided “a meal a day and a place to stay” while implementing programs to educate guests, providing access to services and giving emotional and spiritual support from November through April.
Emily’s article reminds us that we need to do more.
Our Brothers Keeper Shelter goals include offering year round sheltering, increased access to services and eventually providing economical transitional housing with a supervised boarding house or small apartment complex. We hope to expand our services to provide job training with cottage industry or a small business, which is willing to hire and train currently unemployable homeless guests. Other communities have demonstrated that to best address the problems of homelessness, housing needs to come first and services for mental health, addiction treatment and social work follow.
Homeless shelters do not receive funding from the government. OBK has relied on this very generous community to support us these past two years. Finally receiving our nonprofit status has cleared the way for us to apply for philanthropic grants this year.
People wonder why we aren’t doing more. It is not for lack of caring. It is not for lack of knowledge and planning. OBK would be well on its way to reaching its goals if we had two things:
We need many more volunteers! We offer training and guarantee the service will be rewarding. There are many ways to help.
We need much more funding! We need to hire staff to help the shelter operate efficiently and consistently. Participate in our upcoming fundraisers!
I ask this caring and generous community to help eliminate homelessness in Mecosta and surrounding counties by supporting the work of Our Brothers Keeper Shelter with time, funding, advocacy and prayers.
For more information, contact OBK at (231) 629-8033, Our Brothers Keeper Shelter Facebook page or obkshelter.org
Pamela Fleming President, Board of Directors Our Brothers Keeper Shelter