Tag Archives: economy

The Holiday Spirit

 

by Dr. Chad Audi

In the spirit of the holidays, a Florida judge has presented a gift to 90-year-old Arnold Abbott. The elderly World War II veteran had been arrested and given several citations for violating an ordinance that prohibits feeding the homeless in public in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But, now the judge has temporarily halted the ordinance.

For several years, Mr. Abbott’s non-profit organization has fed the city’s homeless. Supporters from around the world empathized with Abbott and his efforts to make sure all of the city’s hungry were fed.

Although the nation’s homeless population is the most vulnerable to hunger, an estimated 50 million Americans go to bed and awake hungry, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. That’s an incredible number. And sadly, about one in five of them are children.

Here at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we serve thousands of people who are experiencing food insecurity. We feed more than 3,500 people each day. In addition to the homeless individuals in our shelters, we serve dinner to members of the community who can’t afford to eat regularly or provide nutritious meals for their families.

DRMM also reaches out to communities surrounding Detroit to help those in need. This holiday season, we donated food boxes to 50 families in the neighboring city of Dearborn, Michigan. The U.S. Census Bureau reports nearly 26-percent of that city’s population lives below the poverty level. Each food box included items such as turkey, beef, rice, cooking oil, seasonings and sugar — enough to last a family of six for two weeks. In total, the families have more than 150 children.

Won’t you open your hearts this holiday season and help us feed the hungry?

“For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25: 35)
Dr. Chad Audi

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A Season of Thanks and Giving

by Dr. Chad Audi

What are you the most thankful for during this season of giving? Is it a roof over your head? Or family and friends who love you? Or perhaps you’re thankful for being healthy and able to make a good living.

During this holiday season, we all should be appreciative of our blessings. So many people are barely making it, and many are on the streets with nowhere to live.

Over the past few years, there has been an increased demand for our services at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM). This can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including the shaky economy, job layoffs, low wages, medical setbacks, and people turning to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping.

In addition, an early cold snap here in Michigan, and across the country, led to DRMM’s shelters being filled way beyond capacity for several days. We brought out extra cots for the men, women and children who came to our door to escape the unseasonably frigid temperatures.

Although we’ve had an increased stream of clients, we are thankful to God and to our supporters for helping us provide for those in need. Because of our donors’ generosity, DRMM is able to feed thousands of people on Thanksgiving and Christmas. They receive hearty, holiday meals. Plus, we are able to provide hundreds of less fortunate children with toys and gifts to make their holidays happier. We make sure they can celebrate like everybody else.

DRMM counts on the generosity and prayers of others to support us in many ways. Whether it’s donating money or items, providing in-kind services or volunteering, everybody can make a difference and help those who need it most.

Make giving a part of your life, not just during the holidays, but all of the time.
Blessed are the givers, and grateful are the receivers.
“He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.”  (Proverbs 22: 9 KJV)

Dr. Chad Audi

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Poverty in America

by Dr. Chad Audi

There’s good news and bad news concerning poverty in America. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the share of people living in poverty last year dropped ever so slightly — by half a percentage point — to 14.5 percent. While that may not seem like much progress, it is the first time the poverty rate has fallen since 2006. On the other hand, the rate is still 2 percentage points higher than it was back then.

The Census Bureau report indicates more people are working full-time jobs. But, the country’s median household income edged up only by about $180.

So, what does this mean for America’s economy? Since the recession of 2007-09, the climb back to economic recovery has been slow. Here at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have continued to see a newer category of people that we call the “working homeless” or the “working poor” come to our facilities for shelter and food.

They are employed parents who can’t afford to pay their utilities and feed their families, too. Or they are working families who were renting a home that fell into foreclosure, because the owner/landlord did not make the mortgage payments. Or they are individuals who were laid-off and forced to take lower paying jobs, but now cannot pay all of their bills.

It’s heartbreaking to me and the DRMM staff to see people in the food lines who have come directly from their job and are still in their work clothes. Most have never known what it’s like to stand in line at a homeless shelter for a meal. This is not the type of life they’ve led in the past, but their present economic situation has forced them to seek help. They are standing in line humbly, but inside they must be hurting.

It’s clear that the majority of families in this country have yet to see their incomes recover from the recession. As a result, the demand remains high on providers like Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. And, it will continue until poverty in America is eliminated.

by Dr. Chad Audi

 

 

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Feeding the Homeless

by Dr. Chad Audi

Feeding the homeless caused quite a controversy recently in Daytona Beach, Florida. A local law prohibits individuals from sharing food with homeless people in public places, but Debbie and Chico Jimenez chose to violate the law when they gave food to about 100 homeless people at a park. It’s something they have been doing for the past year. This time, the couple — who operate a local ministry to help the impoverished — and four friends were charged and fined $2,000. Eventually, the charges and fines were dismissed. And, the Jimenezes have vowed to apply for the proper city permit to continue feeding the homeless in the park.

This has long been a hot button issue all over the country. Should you feed the homeless or give them money when there are agencies like ours — Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) — that provide them with food, shelter, clean clothing, showers, beds, and job training opportunities? Is it a better idea to direct the homeless to go to DRMM and similar organizations?

In the Florida case, the local ordinance instructs people who want to perform acts of kindness or charity to coordinate their efforts with local social service agencies.

It’s a difficult question, because we know that not all homeless people want to follow the rules that will be imposed upon them in emergency shelters. Not all homeless people have made up their minds that they want to turn around their lives. And, some are still caught up in their addictions and likely will spend any donated money in counterproductive ways.

Additionally, feeding the homeless in public or giving them a few dollars is a temporary fix. The next day they will be looking for the next benevolent giver. DRMM seeks to provide the homeless with permanent solutions that will get them off the streets and into homes, careers, and productive lives.

I’m curious, what do you think about individuals feeding the homeless in public places or giving them money?

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The Plight of Homeless Children

by Dr. Chad Audi

Often, when people think of homelessness, they forget about the impact it has on children. The number of homeless students in this country is growing. According to the National Center for Homeless Education, homeless student enrollment has risen steadily since the recession hit in 2007. As of the 2011-12 school year, the number of homeless schoolchildren reached an all-time high of 1.2 million. That is an unbelievable number!

Of course, there are many reasons for the increase — most of which can be attributed to the lingering economic downturn, such as layoffs, a lack of affordable housing, income inequality, and home foreclosures.

What makes matters worse is that even though the homeless numbers have increased, federal funding designated for homeless students has decreased. As a result, local and state social service agencies don’t have the money to provide adequate resources for the growing number of children and families seeking help.

Here at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we are servicing more families in need every day. Families make up 49% of the homeless persons in our city each year. They come to us for emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing, food, clothing, recreational activities, and academic support. We, like other similar organizations, have been impacted by cuts in federal, state and local funding. Often, we have to depend upon the generosity of our donors in order to provide resources for families.

Under the federal McKinney-Vento Education Act, school districts receive funding to help provide support to homeless students and their families. Districts are required to enroll homeless children — even though they don’t have a permanent address — and transport them to and from school. If the children are already enrolled in a school, they must be allowed to remain there.

Homeless students face different kinds of issues in the classroom. Children living in a crowded shelter or “doubled up” with relatives or friends are more likely to not get enough sleep. That makes it difficult for them to concentrate on their lessons. Some children may only get nutritious meals when they go to school. And, budget cuts have reduced the number of social workers available to counsel homeless students in school.

Perhaps the saddest realization of all is that these children are innocent victims. They can’t change their circumstances. No child should ever be homeless.

Dr. Chad Audi

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Detroit’s Homeless Population

by Dr. Chad Audi

Detroit recently made history when its state-appointed emergency manager filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, making it the largest city ever to file for bankruptcy. As Detroit works through this historic financial crisis, we also continue to attack homelessness in the city that I call home.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development just released its “Point-in-Time Count” of the nation’s homeless. The numbers are based on a count made by volunteers who fanned out across the country on a single night in January of this year.
The federal tally indicates the number of homeless in Detroit dropped less than 1-percent from the last count in 2010. The news was much better for the state of Michigan, which recorded an 11.7-percent drop. And, the entire nation saw the number of homeless drop 6.1-percent over the past three years.

On the surface, Detroit’s financial challenges can help explain why the needle barely moved on the number of homeless in the city. The unemployment rate is still high. In some cases, people are working but they’re not making enough money to maintain a home, pay for utilities, and put food on the table every night. And others have been on the streets and in an addiction for so long that they do not have the ability to turn their lives around without receiving significant supportive services.

Here at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we understand that we must help the whole person when he or she comes to our doors. It’s not enough to provide the homeless with emergency shelter, food and clothing. We must ease them into transitional and permanent housing, so they can learn how to maintain a household. And, we must address the issues that are keeping them from becoming productive, tax-paying citizens. That’s why DRMM offers substance abuse treatment, education, jobs training, and skills building that will help our clients qualify for jobs or pursue their dream career.

It’s difficult to determine the accuracy of the federal government’s homeless numbers, since the point-in-time count is primarily limited to the homeless who are visible in the streets, parks, and shelters. What about those who may have found a temporary place to sleep that night or who may have been trying to stay warm in an abandoned house?

However, one thing is for sure; Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the nation will need financial support if we are to meet President Obama’s goal of eliminating homelessness by the end of 2020. Currently, congressional budget cuts are reducing the amount of funds that agencies like DRMM receive to address homelessness. A 5-percent cut in aid to emergency housing and shelter programs is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014.

Let’s encourage Congress to reverse that budget cut, so that our progress on ending homelessness is not reversed.

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Obamacare’s Impact on the Homeless

by Dr. Chad Audi

Thank goodness the federal government is back up and running after a 16-day shutdown. At issue was the implementation of President Obama’s new healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Tea Party Republicans were intent on not funding the government, unless Democrats agreed to delay the start of the healthcare act. The standoff ended with Obamacare intact.

Now the President has turned his attention to ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance. The new law strives to lower healthcare costs, and it gives states the option to expand Medicaid coverage to all eligible people with earnings less than 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

So, what impact will the Affordable Care Act have on the nation’s homeless? Will it help prevent homelessness? According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the new healthcare law will benefit the homeless by making health insurance accessible and affordable; providing preventative, wellness and behavioral healthcare services; and focusing on the whole person’s health needs by partnering with community-based organizations.

The Affordable Care Act is welcome news for the nation’s homeless. Especially for the growing number of children without healthcare coverage who must suffer through worsening health issues, a lack of immunizations, and crisis visits to hospital emergency rooms. Here in the Detroit-area, there are an estimated 550,000 individuals without health insurance. As many as 100,000 of them are children ages 10 and under.

Since 2008, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) has operated the non-profit S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic in partnership with S.A.Y. Detroit, the charity founded by journalist and best-selling author Mitch Albom. The clinic provides free maintenance and preventative healthcare services for uninsured and homeless children and their mothers.

At DRMM, we also provide medical care for the thousands of homeless individuals and families who are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured, and living in poverty. Often, their medical conditions have worsened due to the stress and challenges of being homeless. As a result, many homeless individuals only receive healthcare during emergency room visits. Preventative care is nonexistent.

Others are in desperate need of kicking an addiction that has dragged them into homelessness. Each year, DRMM provides in-patient substance abuse treatment and detoxification services to an estimated 1,700 uninsured men and women.

And, in some cases, pre-existing, serious health issues can contribute to a person’s homelessness. The illness and the inability to pay expensive medical bills can lead to a downward spiral that leaves the individual bankrupt, jobless and uninsured.
Treating a homeless person’s medical challenges is a first step toward rebuilding his or her life and giving them a chance at a healthier tomorrow.

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