Tag Archives: detroit

Bringing Awareness to Hunger & Homelessness

by Dr. Chad Audi

From now until the end of the year, a lot of attention will be placed on America’s homeless population. The nation is wrapping up a five-year plan to end veteran homelessness. Plus, the week before Thanksgiving is known as National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week.

That week, November 14-22, is a time to shed light on the issues of hunger and homelessness. It comes at a time of the year when most Americans are thinking about the things for which they are thankful. Undoubtedly, among the top things to be thankful for is having food on the table and a roof over your head. Just think, on any given night there are more than 578,000 people in this country who don’t have these basic necessities of life.

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) understands that we all are only one or two paychecks away from being homeless or hungry. Many poor people are at a high risk of becoming homeless, because they can’t afford housing.

As the temperatures start to fall, DRMM is preparing for the usual increase in the number of homeless coming to our doors for shelter from the cold. Most are scared, hungry, and short on hope. We give them food, a hot shower, clothing, and a reason to hope.

So, what can YOU do during National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week? Organize a drive to collect money, food, toiletries, blankets, hats and socks for your local homeless shelters. Hold a prayer vigil that calls attention to the plight of the homeless. Volunteer your time at an agency that helps the homeless — and bring your friends and family members. Or, exercise your political power and write to your legislators to advocate for policy solutions to poverty and homelessness.

by Dr. Chad Audi

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A Summer Experience for Kids

by Dr. Chad Audi

School is almost out for the summer. Children everywhere are looking forward to time away from the classroom and spending more time outdoors and traveling.

But not all children have the advantage of going on family trips to fun places like Disneyland or Cedar Point.

Would you believe some children have never been outside of their own neighborhood? It’s sad, but true.

For more than 40 years, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) has run a summer camp for underprivileged kids from the inner city. Our 240-acre Wildwood Ranch in Howell, Michigan is equipped with all of the best camp equipment, and we offer academic, recreational and spiritual activities. The kids love it! They see and do things they have never seen or done before. They ride horses, climb the ropes courses, go boating, room with others in a cabin, and make new friends.

Now, DRMM is pleased to be named as the new operator for another summer camp for Detroit Public Schools (DPS) students. Camp Burt Shurly is located in Gregory, Michigan and we have a lot of renovations planned, such as updating the cabins, expanding the programming, and adding a nature center. DPS has launched a campaign to raise money for the camp improvements.

Just like at Wildwood, we want to make sure that the kids have a great experience on both the educational and recreational levels.

So, when you’re watching the kids in your neighborhood play outside this summer or taking your children on a family vacation, think about the young children and teens who are experiencing the beauty of nature for the very first time at summer camps like ours.

These are the experiences that will shape their futures and broaden their horizons. All kids deserve that opportunity.

Dr. Chad Audi

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Homeless Jesus

by Dr. Chad Audi

A 7-foot bronze sculpture depicting Jesus as a homeless man huddled under a blanket on a park bench is stirring up controversy around the world. The statue is identifiable as Jesus only by the crucifixion wounds on his feet. The sculptor, Timothy Schmalz, has installed casts in the U.S., Canada and Europe. And now it could be coming to my home of Detroit.

An anonymous donor who grew up in a Detroit suburb is contributing the $32,000 needed to have the statue installed. But the reactions are mixed.

While Pope Francis calls it a “beautiful and excellent” representation of Jesus, others say it demeans Jesus. And yet others have mistaken the statue for a homeless person and alerted police.

The artist says the sculpture is meant as a call to action among Christians. He sees it as a way to inspire people to help those in need. In fact, people have been leaving money, food and other items for the homeless at the statue outside a church in Buffalo, New York.

So, should we welcome the so-called “Homeless Jesus” as a sign of the hunger and despair faced by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe? Is the sculpture a means of confronting homelessness and drawing attention to the plight of the homeless?

Well, let’s start by asking “What would Jesus think?”

We know that Jesus showed his concern for the homeless and poor. He talked about feeding the hungry and caring for the needy. Matthew 25:45 reads, “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ ”

Jesus himself spent much of his life as a homeless person. He was a homeless baby, born in a stable. Later, during His public ministry, He didn’t have a permanent place to call home. And, when he was crucified, he was stripped of everything — home, clothing and possessions.

Here at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we provide services to more than 1,400 homeless and needy people every day. One could argue that the donor’s generous contribution could have been put to better use at the many non-profit organizations in the Detroit area like ours that provide a multitude of services to the homeless, hungry and disadvantaged.

But one thing is for sure, the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture is guaranteed to make you stop and think. Let me know your thoughts.

by Dr. Chad Audi

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Helping Each Other

By Dr. Chad Audi 

Here in Detroit, we’re doing something unique and innovative. And I believe it can work in any city or town. The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) has partnered with another local non-profit organization, Think Detroit PAL (Police Athletic League), to help each other —and the City of Detroit — this summer.

Think Detroit PAL is a youth sports program that attracts 12,000 Detroit-area children each year. The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries is a non-profit that provides shelter, food, treatment, clothing, job training and other services for thousands of homeless, addicted and disadvantaged individuals and families. Together, we are having a huge impact on the community.

DRMM’s vocational training programs include a class on lawn service and landscaping. Clients enrolled in this course learn valuable skills that can help them earn a living or become an entrepreneur. Local businesses have helped us secure lawn mowers and other equipment to enable the men to learn the trade. The course includes hands-on mowing lessons on the grounds of DRMM’s facilities.

The Think Detroit PAL partnership takes the training program to the next level. Earlier this month, we began cutting grass and cleaning up at five parks owned by the city and used by the kids in the Think Detroit program. We will continue to provide this service throughout the summer at no cost to the City of Detroit, which has not been able to keep the parks maintained due to the severe budget crunch we are facing in Detroit.

So in the end, everyone benefits. The city parks look better. Kids are able to enjoy playing outdoor sports in the parks. Detroit Rescue Mission clients gain confidence and self-esteem from their newly-learned job skills, and they get a good feeling about what they are doing to help the kids enjoy the summer. And the City of Detroit gets free lawn service during this depressed economy.

See what’s possible when we help each other out?

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Mental Illness and Homelessness

By Dr. Chad Audi

A 2007 survey of 23 cities — conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors — revealed 30% of the homeless population have a mental illness. According to the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, approximately 60% of chronically homeless people in the Detroit area have underlying issues of mental illness and/or substance abuse.

Mental disorders prevent people from doing everyday things like going to work and school or taking care of a home and family. The closings of psychiatric hospitals over several years, diminishing community-based programs and outpatient services, and a lack of affordable housing options leave the mentally ill with no place to go and no hope of getting better. Many are distrustful or too afraid to seek help and react irrationally toward those trying to help. This pushes them into a life on the streets. The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) reaches out to those with mental health issues by partnering with other agencies such as the Detroit Health Department to provide medical and social services assistance to some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

A movie depicting mental health issues among the homeless opens in theaters later this month. “The Soloist” is based on a true story and features actor Jamie Foxx as a brilliant musician suffering from mental illness and homelessness. He is befriended by a Los Angeles Times columnist, played by Robert Downey Jr., who helps him fulfill his dreams. The movie promises to show how a seemingly hopeless life can be altered for the better.

Although there are many reasons why individuals end up living on the streets, mental illness is prevalent among the homeless population. People with mental disorders require ongoing access to treatment and rehabilitation services. They are human beings who should be treated with dignity and respect. As represented in “The Soloist,” many homeless people already have amazing skills that just need to be nurtured and enhanced. They simply require our support and encouragement.

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We’re in This Together

By Dr. Chad Audi

These are challenging times for those who love and claim Detroit as their home. Businesses find themselves having to defend the reputation and prospects of the City and its leadership. People who live and work in the area find themselves the focus of concerned inquiries or derisive jests from friends and relatives in other parts of the state or country. Despite this negativity, many of us are proud to be residents of this great metropolitan community. These are the same people who are committed to making our businesses succeed and grateful for the many wonderful assets in this region.

What are our assets? We have the brains, as evidenced by our tremendous medical, educational, technological and research resources. We have the muscle, as evidenced by the determination of our people to tackle everything from recession to Michigan winters to manufacturing and industrial challenges. We have the beauty, as evidenced by our natural resources, scenery and abundant world-class arts and cultural institutions. We have the infrastructure to serve America’s businesses, as evidenced by our pivotal waterway, air, land and rail connections linking us to all parts of the United States and Canada. We have the spirit, as evidenced by the many dynamic people of faith who demonstrate their love for God and their neighbors. With all of the negative national attention focused on Detroit right now, we would do well to focus our own attention on the thousands of positive partnerships that are quietly taking place between industries, companies and organizations, as well as on the hundreds of thousands of people who are making a positive difference in the lives of others every day. We need to celebrate what a wonderful place this region is for work and as a home.

That being said, we do have serious issues in this region too. Some are a result of our own failure to come together as one to confront big issues such as the need to dramatically improve the quality of education for all young people; build a new infrastructure for regional transportation, employment and governance; and break down artificially maintained walls of division between our central city and surrounding communities. We need a society where each person is able to move freely to jobs, housing and resources that meet family needs and allow dreams to be achieved.

However, the most serious problem we face occurs when we make decisions as though any one jurisdiction or community can tackle these issues alone or remain unaffected by the well-being and actions of its neighbors. It simply isn’t true. Our residents live, work, commute, visit, have relatives in, hail from, pay taxes to, and shop in each other’s communities. Anything that negatively — or positively — affects one community affects the rest.

It was for this reason that non-profit organizations such as the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) appealed when Detroit City Council voted to restrict city funding to non-profits that did not have a majority of Board members living in the City of Detroit. That decision and the ensuing publicity surrounding which non-profits would lose much-needed funding galvanized a prolonged and heated discussion among people inside and outside the boundaries of the City of Detroit. Some of the conversations demonstrated just how deep the layers of hurt, misinformation and division went that still need to be addressed.

We can be grateful that the Detroit City Council voted to take another year to deliberate on the issue. We can be even more grateful that many of the City Council members made efforts to acknowledge that they appreciate the compassion possessed by metropolitan Detroiters who donate their time and money to city-based non-profits that serve the poor. However, the discussion needs to continue on this issue and others such as regional transportation, jobs creation, relief for businesses, promotion of entrepreneurship and the importance of advanced training and education. Not only should the conversation continue, but we need to also adopt a commitment to unifying this region.

For every person who wants to be an isolationist and keep our communities apart, there are scores of others who recognize that we are one body, however imperfectly joined. We are joined by necessity and can be gloriously and productively joined by choice. Together, we possess every asset, resource and skill this region needs to provide for our citizens. The change will start when we begin to stretch our hands, minds, voices and hearts out across the jurisdictional and cultural lines that now separate us. We are in this together. Let’s be determined to use these stormy times as our greatest opportunity and catalyst for change.

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Coming Back, Giving Back

By Dr. Chad Audi 

What can happen when you give someone who has failed ─ sometimes in a big way ─ a chance to be trusted again with the responsibility to serve others? I’d like to tell you about some volunteers who have gone through substance abuse treatment and housing programs for the homeless at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM). They are giving back through their volunteer work at Finney High School.

These are men and women who have wrestled with criminal behavior, addiction or homelessness – sometimes with all three. Through the generosity of supporters of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, they found the time and opportunity to become whole again. Instead of going forward with their lives without looking back at lessons learned, they have chosen to reach out and serve others in their community. Thanks to Finney High School Principal Alvin Ward, they have been given a leadership role in helping high school students. “They patrol school halls, report students in the hallways after the bell rings, encourage the students to be in class on time, and act as mentors by listening and sharing their experiences with the students so they can encourage them not to follow a negative path in life. They have helped create a better learning environment,” he said.

The results have been dramatic for everyone who has taken a chance on the volunteer project. Violence has been dramatically reduced, and teachers are able to teach students without disturbances sidetracking the educational programs. Finney High School recently achieved its first marking period in which the student body’s grade point average reached the 2.0 + grade point level, due in part to the involvement of DRMM’s volunteers. The students appreciate them: “They are very serious about seeing that students get to class, even though they are volunteers,” says A’daisha Pickett. Johnathan Murff says “99% of the students are in class now.” The volunteers themselves have benefited from their participation. Mark Williams says, “It has enhanced my awareness and allowed me to grow up in a sense. I can share with the students the price I’ve paid to do what I’ve done and how it affects me as an adult.” Denise Jensen adds, “I’m showing that I care about them; that they are not just kids. They are our future. My biggest statement to them is they don’t want to be 51 years old and living at a mission.”

These volunteers are making a real difference for the next generation. Because they have known and used every trick in the book and really care about the students at Finney High, they can be more effective than well-intentioned but inexperienced volunteers.

These are men and women who have learned from their history and learned to take responsibility for their history. To do their part, leaders in the community ─ like Principal Ward ─ must believe that people can change. Then they must offer those who have worked hard to prove themselves meaningful opportunities to give back to their community, standing by, supporting and encouraging them. When this happens, miracles can happen. Just like the miracles at Finney High School.

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