By Dr. Chad Audi
President Obama has pledged increased support for the families of U.S. military members. Earlier this week, the president released a detailed report outlining fifty specific commitments that address a variety of issues ranging from homelessness to mental health to spousal employment. It is a government-wide effort involving all cabinet agencies.
It’s great to see President Obama take an unprecedented and sweeping approach to improving the quality of life for military families. Sadly, we know that too many U.S. service members fall into hard times when they return home from serving our country. In fact, the president stressed that perhaps one of the most important commitments is to end homelessness among veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates 107,000 veterans are homeless in this country on any given night.
Here at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have a special program to help homeless veterans find housing, address health issues, treat substance abuse addiction, advance their education, and learn job skills. Counseling is a key component for the veterans who come to DRMM, along with follow-up services to help them successfully overcome any obstacles to independence and stability.
The president’s plan also places a heavy emphasis on counseling for military families who are more vulnerable to stress when a parent is deployed. The U.S. Department of Defense notes that more than two million service members have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. The White House report details a marked increase in behavioral health issues among the young children of military parents.
The White House report is titled, “Strengthening our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment.” That indeed is an appropriate title. Our country should be committed to taking care of U.S. service members’ families, while they put their lives on the line defending our nation. And that far-reaching support must continue for the troops themselves when they come home.
By Dr. Chad Audi
There’s word of another homeless individual who has been suddenly cast into the media spotlight. I’ve written in this space before about Ted Williams, the formerly homeless man who was courted by numerous companies as a voiceover talent after a video highlighting his “golden voice” went viral on the Internet. Now, a homeless man has won the ESPN fantasy football competition. Nathan Harrington of Salem, Massachusetts beat more than three million teams in the ESPN.com contest. His prize? A $3,500 Best Buy gift card, which Nathan sold for cash so that he can move his family into an apartment.
Yes, it’s another amazing story. Nathan became homeless after a car accident two years ago left him unable to work. So, he didn’t even own a computer to participate and track his progress in the contest. He repeatedly borrowed computers from strangers or used one at his father’s nursing home or at the library. Despite his circumstances, Nathan held on to the hope that he could win the fantasy football competition.
Life is nothing without “hope.” The homeless and disadvantaged people that we service at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) seek us out because they have hope that they can escape poverty, addiction or joblessness. It takes determination, a strong will, and faith in God to stick it out when the going gets tough. DRMM is focused on rebuilding lives one at a time, so we are committed to sticking by our clients as they make the journey to recovery and prosperity.
So congratulations, Nathan! I hope this victory kick starts a year of success for you and your family.
By Dr. Chad Audi
Later this month, the nation’s homeless population will be counted in a mass effort required every two years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Called the “Point-in-Time Count,” volunteer teams will fan out after dark in cities across the country to locate, interview and count the homeless who are living in the streets and in shelters. Based on the findings, HUD will set funding levels for shelters and other agencies assisting the homeless.
Here in Detroit, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) takes an active role in the nationwide count. Working in partnership with the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND), we are providing volunteers and a staging area for them before they spread out over Detroit. Numerous other service agencies and community and civic leaders will also participate.
This year’s count will undoubtedly shed light on whether the economic recession has resulted in a rise in homelessness. For the first time, volunteers will take a detailed census of homeless veterans and unaccompanied children under the age of eighteen. It also provides an opportunity to inform the homeless of the assistance that is available to them and to distribute care packages containing items such as food, blankets, socks and hygiene products.
As an agency working with the homeless, next week’s count is extremely important. We have seen an increase in the people we serve, so an accurate count will help us get the necessary resources to address the issue more effectively and permanently. The data that is collected through the interviews will also help us promote real change in people’s lives.
Volunteers are still needed across the country to help in the count. Experienced leaders will accompany the teams. Contact your county or local service agencies to find out how you can get involved. Every person counts!
By Dr. Chad Audi
By now, you’ve probably heard about the man in Ohio dubbed as the “homeless man with the golden voice.” Fifty-three-year-old Ted Williams had been homeless for a decade due to drug and alcohol problems. Today, he is two years sober, but has not been able to break out of the cycle of homelessness. That is until a Columbus Dispatch cameraman videotaped Ted speaking in his radio voice as he begged for money on an Ohio highway, holding a sign that touted his “radio voice” as a God-given talent. In fact, Ted had worked in broadcasting prior to his downfall. The video went viral on YouTube, getting more than 11 million hits.
As a result, job offers began pouring in to Ted. During an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, he told how thankful he was to be getting a second chance. But most of all, he exclaimed that his life will be different now, because “This time I have God.” He was also reunited with his 90-year-old mother after a decade long separation.
Ted’s amazing story is but one example of the personal stories that flourish among this nation’s homeless population. As President & CEO of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), I see extraordinary talent of all sorts in the people who come through our programs. There are musicians, singers, writers, artists, and much more among our clients. In most cases, they possessed the talent, but they got diverted on the wrong path in life. That’s why it is important to DRMM to embrace the talents of the homeless and disadvantaged and provide them with the educational and vocational skills needed to secure jobs and escape poverty permanently.
As Ted Williams’ story illustrates, everyone deserves another chance to live life as a productive and honorable human being, just as God would have us to do.