Monthly Archives: April 2008

Saluting our Veterans

By Dr. Chad Audi

With Memorial Day approaching, we turn our thoughts to warmer weather, vacations and remembering the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. It’s important that our military veterans who did make it home from war know that we care about them and their future. Sadly, veterans make up an estimated 25% of the nation’s adult homeless population. Yet veterans only constitute 11% of the total population.

Many veterans fall on hard economic times when they come home. It’s heartbreaking to see someone who has literally given his or her blood for our well-being end up living on the streets. At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) , we go above and beyond to help our war heroes. We have a program called the Veterans Independence Project, which provides transitional housing and services to homeless men and women who have served our country in the military. In collaboration with the Detroit field office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, we help the veterans with housing, employment, social and medical services, and educational programs to reintegrate them into society.

“David” came to DRMM for help when his life began to fall apart after serving in the Army during Operation Desert Storm. David suffered through depression and a divorce. He was fired from his job while on medical leave for an injury sustained at work. The arguments with his family increased, and David struck out on his own. “I ended up staying in my truck for a while and I thought about me being a vet there might be some places I could call and get some help,” he says.

We helped David with shelter, food and clothing. He found a job helping other veterans turn their lives around, and he is enrolled in community college. His future looks bright. You can watch David’s story at: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1283758/help_for_veterans/.

As we get closer to this patriotic holiday, let’s think about what we can do to honor and assist our homeless and disadvantaged veterans. And coming up in June, we are setting aside a Marathon Day of Prayer to honor our U.S. troops. Keep checking this blog and the DRMM Web site for details.

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Lending Hands, Mending Lives

By Dr. Chad Audi

Drug and alcohol addiction, hard economic times, mental illness and prison releases are just some of the many reasons that cause a growing number of people to find themselves with no place to live. Some seek help at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) and other shelters, but others find refuge in abandoned homes, underneath freeway bridges and in parks. No one knows for sure, but approximately 14,000 individuals and families are homeless in Detroit on any given night. And although their stories are different, they share a common goal: survival. As an agency that treats the whole person, our goal is not only to help them survive, but also to thrive in their everyday lives.

We work closely with the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion on a community-based initiative that seeks out the homeless on the streets and provides them with immediate assistance. It’s called “Project Helping Hands,” and it has already changed the lives of hundreds of people. We provide them with substance abuse treatment, shelter, food, housing, counseling, job skills and more ─ whatever they need to get back on the right track.

“LaVon” got a second chance when Project Helping Hands found him. “I was on drugs, selling drugs, getting arrested, going to court, and ended up getting probation,” he says. “I just didn’t want to go back to my old way of living. I just totally surrendered. Whatever was suggested to me to do, I was going to do it because I wanted to change.” Today LaVon lives in DRMM transitional housing and is enrolled at a community college.

Like LaVon, many people in homeless situations want to change their lifestyles. But they may not know how to get started. The Detroit Health Department and DRMM can give them a helping hand.

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Let Kids Experience Life

By Dr. Chad Audi

The song “Greatest Love of All” begins with “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” It’s so important that children get an opportunity to develop successful personal and professional lives so that they can become our future leaders. But they need guidance to achieve their goals. In today’s busy world, parents don’t always give kids the attention and time they need and deserve. And children don’t always take the time to really experience and enjoy life.

Quality interactions with peers ── away from televisions, computers, radios, cell phones, iPods and other distractions ─ can make a huge difference in a child’s life. That’s what we provide at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries’(DRMM) Wildwood Ranch in Howell, Michigan. Every summer, the 240-acre ranch offers a sanctuary for 1300 youngsters, ages 9 to 17. Most of the kids are from the inner city and have never experienced life on a ranch. They participate in activities designed to teach life skills, build teamwork and strengthen spirituality. Many go canoeing, tackle a high ropes course and ride horses for the first time in their lives. The activities build character and self-esteem.

“Terrell” has attended the camp for the past nine years. “I’ve gained leadership skills to be able to show younger kids in the neighborhood how to do certain things,” he says. “It does prepare you for the workforce because you are learning a lot of different training skills. The camp changed my life…it keeps you busy and active and away from trouble.”

Kids who are at-risk or from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds can benefit from experiences like those at Wildwood Ranch. They get exposed to ethnic diversity and can have a genuinely good time without all of the electronic gadgets that are so popular with young people today. They also learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in an attempt to keep the kids on the right path. The daily praise and worship services nourish their spiritual and personal growth. All of these things can lead to better leaders and decision makers. All children deserve a chance at being the best that they can be. We owe it to our young people to “teach them well and let them lead the way.”

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Building Futures, Restoring Hope

By Dr. Chad Audi

For some people, having the ability to afford the necessities of life can be a hard road to conquer. Especially during a transitional stage in life when you’re trying to make all the pieces fit. The homeless people that enter the doors of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) need help regaining their independence. The backgrounds of our clients run the gamut from drug addicts and alcoholics to laid-off workers to ex-convicts to senior citizens and “working homeless” families. Since everyone’s journey to our ministries is different, we provide a variety of solutions to help reintegrate them back into the community. Our main goal is to give them a future.

We have partnered with Wayne County Community College District, Wayne State University and University of Michigan-Dearborn to equip our clients with the educational and vocational skills needed to compete in the workforce. As they travel their own personal path of restoration and recovery, they can obtain valuable skills such as secretarial and customer service training, Web design, electrical wiring, auto repair, video production and landscape training. Many of our clients graduate from our programs and find full-time employment right away or they choose to continue their education.

“April,” a former drug-addicted prostitute, received a certificate of completion and college credit after finishing WCCCD’s customer service training course at DRMM. “We’re learning what our employers expect from us as an employee and how we can move ahead,” she says. “When you’re using (drugs) you don’t think you’re going to amount to anything, you know, and it does seem hopeless; it seems like I’m never going to be able to get ahead and now I have the opportunity to go to school, to get a good job and my life isn’t over, it’s just beginning.”

As a Christian-based organization, it’s our duty to provide food, shelter and treatment for the homeless. But you must still give people the skills that will keep them from reverting to their old lifestyles. We invest in their future by providing the job training and skills necessary to sustain themselves. He or she becomes a better person and a productive citizen in the community. And what does it cost them? Nothing but the willingness to come to DRMM and a willingness to change.

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The Many Faces of the Homeless

by Dr. Chad Audi

As Michigan and the nation experience a slumping economy, the face of homelessness is rapidly changing. Long held images of a bearded, dirty panhandler have been replaced with a new reality: laid-off employees and working families living on the streets. Yes, today we see a variety of people who have found themselves with no place to go. They are the new faces of the homeless.

Let’s start with what I call the “working homeless.” A growing number of people with jobs ─ and who may even be enrolled in classes to further advance themselves ─ have found it impossible to live on their salaries. The rising costs of utilities, rent/mortgage, food and gas are more than they can afford, so they lose their homes. They’ve paid their taxes and are productive citizens, but they still face homelessness. The “working homeless” go to shelters for food and sleep, while they hold down low-paying jobs during the day.

Then you have the people who are laid off or fired from their jobs. Perhaps they were already living paycheck to paycheck and without adequate savings or other financial support, they end up on the streets. And sometimes a serious medical condition leads to the loss of a job and sky-high bills that can’t be paid. Unfortunately, we see many families in these situations who come to the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) for shelter and assistance.

And, of course, there are addicted individuals whose dependency has caused them to spend all of their money on drugs and alcohol. They can’t maintain stable lifestyles and as a result become homeless. Despite numerous attempts at substance abuse treatment, many relapse and go back to life on the streets. A high number of the homeless population suffers from a mental illness. They are unable to maintain a home life and with the closure of several mental health institutions they have chosen to live under bridges, on street corners and in cardboard boxes. The situation is much the same with the “chronically” homeless who are comfortable living in abandoned buildings and soliciting people for money.

So as you see, there are a variety of circumstances that can lead to people becoming homeless. And the homeless are human beings just like you and me. Many want to preserve their dignity and respect. That’s what we focus on at the Detroit Rescue Mission; we provide them with quality services, special attention and the help needed to return to their own homes. It’s easier than you think to slip into homelessness, but it’s hard to get your life back without assistance from highly skilled people and caring organizations.

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