From the President/CEO…
I have one very important question to ask: If you knew how to help, would you?
This is something that weighs heavily on my heart every day. So many people ask me how they can “help” those whom we are called to serve. I am always extremely appreciative that folks want to know the answer, that they are curious and open enough to ask it in the first place. The truth is, just like there is no one reason a person finds themselves experiencing homelessness, there is also not just one way to offer help.
Because we have the blessing of being in close proximity to underserved and unhoused individuals in our community every day, we understand that answering the question of “How can I help?” begins with intentionality. We must be intentional in our approach.
I’d like to share with you the ways in which we are continuing to evolve in our services and our approaches. But first a reminder as to why we do this. We believe everyone is made in the image of a God who has plans for their life—plans that do not include homelessness—therefore we seek to demonstrate the compassion of Christ and build better communities. That is our why.
Every individual deserves to be shown dignity, be reminded they have inherent value, and live a life free from homelessness. We intentionally do this by focusing on three areas:
- Prevention and Diversion. By going upstream and making every effort to prevent and divert individuals from entering into the system, not only will hundreds of children never know what it feels like to sleep in a car or under a bridge, but cycles will begin to be broken. Data shows that when children experience homelessness three or more times before age 18, they are 85% more likely to become homeless as an adult. We are purposefully pouring resources, staffing, and strategies into this crucial area.
- Guest Services. Through efforts like our Immeasurably More Capital Campaign, our main location at 225 Commerce Ave. is being completely renovated to provide more dignity and safety for our guests. Gone are the days when those experiencing homelessness will stay in a room with 112 other individuals who are also in the midst of uncertainty and trauma. We now have smaller, dorm-style rooms where specialized case managers are very intentionally walking alongside guests to provide them with relationship and resources so they can leave homelessness more quickly and permanently.
- Jobs and Housing. We are intentionally investing heavily in our workforce development program at Next Step of West Michigan, providing individuals with both life and work skills that will allow them to complete training and immediately secure jobs that pay livable wages. Along with employment opportunities, we are also intentionally building affordable home options which will help guests on their journey out of homelessness and into homeownership.
Friends, the ways in which to help are in place. Often I think we believe there is so much to do, that our individual help won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I’m here to tell you—it does. Every day I see guests with huge smiles on their faces, telling me they did it! They are stable and out of this difficult season of their life.
One life at a time, one intentional next step at a time, we can do this. Will you join me in helping?
Thank you for being here. We cannot do this work alone!
Grace and peace,
Executive Leadership Team
Transitional Housing and Jobs
Executive Director, Next Step of West Michigan
Rick signed the paperwork, was given a tour, and got handed the keys to his new place. “He is officially out of homelessness.’’
Rick* landed at MTM because he couldn’t find work in Kalamazoo despite visiting many temp agencies and being in and out of the hospital for cancer treatments. Mel Trotter staff walked with him each step of the way by scheduling and rescheduling his doctor appointments and helping him obtain all the necessary documents and income he’d need to get into permanent housing.
*name and photos changed to protect the privacy of our guests.