Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Holiday Tragedy

By Dr. Chad Audi

You may have heard about the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans, Louisiana over this holiday season. Eight young homeless people died in a fire at an abandoned wood-framed warehouse. They had sought shelter from the unusually cold weather and began burning trash and wood to stay warm. The fire raged out of control, trapping the young squatters. It was the deadliest New Orleans fire in nearly four decades.

It’s believed that the victims were in their late teens and early twenties. They were described by others as being accomplished musicians or artists. How tragic! A recent report by the Center for American Progress estimates there are 1.6 to 2.8 million homeless youth in the United States, ages 12 through 24. Many are homeless because of abuse, neglect, and family conflict. Another tragic occurrence!

New Orleans officials say homelessness — especially among young people — has increased since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. On any given night, as many as 3,000 people are estimated to be living on the streets. Shelters can provide only about 800 beds. And homeless agencies in New Orleans say many young adults and teenagers tend to avoid shelters for numerous reasons. Many would rather stay out in the cold than seek social services.

In my experience at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), I find that sometimes the homeless don’t want to abide by an agency’s rules, or they feel uncomfortable going to a shelter, or pride prevents them from seeking help. Another problem is the lack of affordable housing. The need is larger than ever considering the record number of foreclosures and the economic crisis we have faced. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of vacant, blighted properties can be found across the country and often are used by the homeless as a haven from the weather and dangerous streets.

The tragedy in New Orleans is heartbreaking. We should never lose young people — or anyone — in this manner. Everyone — citizens, the government, non-profits, and businesses — must step up and address the issues that are leading to increased homelessness in this country.

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An International Connection

By Dr. Chad Audi

I recently returned from Beirut, Lebanon, where I participated as a trainer in a three-day international conference on “Capacity Building” for 40 Lebanese non-profit agencies. Nearly 200 people attended the seminar, representing civil society, military and security forces, religious clerks, and the Modern University for Business & Science (M.U.B.S.) Board of Trustees and staff. What an experience! As President & CEO of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), I was honored to provide information to the Lebanese charitable organizations on how to grow their agencies, using our work as a model.

The demand for social service agencies like DRMM has risen across the world. It’s not just here in the United States. There is an international emergency in terms of people and families in need. And the problems are the same: How can charitable agencies do more with fewer resources? How can agencies obtain funding to expand their reach in society?

The conference training sessions focused on three areas: “Social Services: Challenges & Opportunities,” “Project Proposals for Results,” and “Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs’ New Quality Standards.”  The conference garnered national attention, and I was interviewed on Lebanon’s national television network. I’d like to thank the Modern University for Business & Science (M.U.B.S.), under the patronage of His Excellency, Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Dr. Salim Sayegh for partnering with DRMM on this workshop.

Humanity is international. Charity work is important across the globe. We must all work together to increase awareness about poverty and homelessness, so that we can come up with universal solutions. All human beings are deserving of the necessities in life. It doesn’t matter where they live.

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Cold Weather Survival

By Dr. Chad Audi

In many parts of the country, like here in Detroit, snow has started to fall. The extended weather forecast calls for temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. It is December, so we expect as much. But while many of us can dial up the heat in our homes or start a fire in the fireplace to keep warm, there are hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. who dread this time of the year. They are homeless men, women and children who are living on the cold streets.

This is the busiest time of the year for the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) and other agencies like ours. Not only because of the cold weather that drives the homeless to look for shelter and a warm meal, but also because of the holiday season. Everyone deserves to experience the joys of the holidays with good food, gifts and warm gatherings.

A recent newspaper story in Detroit focused on a college student who has designed and created three prototypes of a combination coat and bed roll made of Tyvek HomeWrap insulation and flexible, synthetic fleece. The student’s hope is that the coat will save thousands of homeless people’s lives by protecting them from dangerous, cold temperatures. Interesting? Yes. While certainly no one wants to encourage the homeless to stay on the streets, we do realize there are some people who do not want to come to shelters and abide by the human services organization’s rules.

However, these days, the number of people seeking shelter from the cold is rising. All it takes is the loss of a job or a home to send a person’s life into a tailspin. Or perhaps a tragedy, such as a home that has burned to the ground. And sometimes it’s because of an alcohol or drug addiction that hasn’t been treated.

Whatever the circumstances that lead to homelessness, it can be difficult to find a bed in shelters during this time of the year, because many places are overcrowded. At DRMM, we don’t turn anyone away. But it’s difficult when you don’t have the space and resources to service everyone who needs help. Keep these agencies and the homeless in your prayers and thoughts as we go through the winter season.

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