by Dee Crane, Program Director | Women and Children’s Center
We look forward to next year’s Mother’s Day when we will be hosting a celebration with the women and children who are with us. God is so good!
So here’s the latest update…it is our hope and prayer that we will be hosting a couple of open houses at the Center by mid to late July. We will be hosting volunteer information and training sessions mid-July, and we are currently planning for our first residents to move in the first part of August.
The Center looks amazing. I believe every inch in it has been repainted. I can’t thank enough Kathy Williams for her taking the lead in designing and furnishing the place. Her vision and energy have been gifts! I am very accurate when I say that we have had hundreds of volunteers giving of their time, talents, and donations. They are priceless treasures! Also, Dave Lupone, my angel with tattoos, is crew chief, contractor, keeper of the faith and prayer warrior for this ministry and I am grateful! Finally, to ProMedica, what a gift and what a source of support.
What still needs to be finished? The laundry room, kitchen, fencing, technology, security system, and the removing of the tunnel hallway into Herrick Hospital. Sounds like big projects, and they are, but we are on track.
The community support has been overwhelming…in a good way! So many individuals, families, church groups, businesses, other non-profits, children’s groups, and entire communities have stepped up in partnership with us in support of our women and children. We are forming long-term relationships that will sustain this ministry. Our volunteers and these partnerships will always be needed, welcomed, and seen as blessings. There will be lots of opportunities for anyone to volunteer at the Center working directly with our residents so stay tuned for more information.
As we travel the county spreading the information, the first question we get is, “do you really think you will be able to fill the Center with the 54 residents you are set up for?” YES! YES! AND YES! Accurate numbers are available that state that as of March of this year, 16% of adults in Lenawee County are living below the poverty line, 1/3-1/2 of every school population in Lenawee County qualifies for and participates in the free breakfast and lunch program, and 275 children between the ages of 4-16 are on Lenawee County School’s homeless rosters. Neighbors of Hope receives phone calls weekly asking when the Center will be open. Yes, we will be full and there will be a waiting list most likely by the middle of the winter.
What does homelessness look like for women and children in our county? It’s not what you see on the streets of Detroit as you make your way to Comerica Park. I’ve seen it first-hand and it’s heart-breaking. A woman without a home most likely has a job, it’s just not enough money to afford a place to live and pay all the expenses that come with having kids. She most likely has no family or close friends willing to help her. She is extremely proud and is willing to sacrifice her own meals, her medicine, and her sleep to ensure that her children are her top priority and that they go to school looking like all the other kids and participating in as many activities as she can manage.
She most likely moves from couch to couch or she lives in her car, a camper, a basement or in an abandoned building. Homeless children spend less time finding out about the world and more time struggling to survive in it. They have more illnesses, less sleep, no one to help make school a priority, are unable to sustain friendships as they move frequently, they are often absent from school and their dropout rates are the highest of any demographic population in our high schools. They suffer from diminished self-esteem, depression, and an inability to cope. The earlier the intervention, the more likely these children will be able to break the cycle of poverty in their families.
You hopefully have noticed that I haven’t once used the words “homeless shelter” and that’s deliberate. “Sheltering” will be a small portion of what Neighbors of Hope will offer to our women and children. Yes, they will receive safe shelter; however they will also receive, meals, case management, spiritual and personal care, child care, and pathways to high school graduation, college enrollment, employment, renewal of mind, body and soul, and eventual independence, strength and resources to create a home of their very own. The reality of life is that all of us are one crisis away from needing some of what the Center has to offer.
This is a deeply personal ministry. It’s about changing lives. It’s about empowerment, dignity and safety. It’s about knowing you are God’s hands, feet and voice to a population so desperately in need of that strength. I hope all of us tonight can hear God’s whisper asking “Whom shall I send to assist in the ministries of Neighbors of Hope (a little translation of my own). Please consider joining us and the response is “I am here, send me!”