Tag Archives: food

Cultivating Hope through Urban Farming

by Dr. Chad Audi

Across the country, urban farming has become very popular as a means of providing fresh food for the low-income, poverty-stricken and homeless.

Here in Detroit, as in many other urban cities, residents don’t always have access to grocery stores that sell fresh vegetables, fruits and meats. In addition to fast food restaurants, many people purchase food at neighborhood gas stations and convenience stores. Not a nutritious meal, for sure. But it’s often the only accessible locations for individuals without transportation and a shortage of money.

Therefore, farmers markets and urban gardens are good alternatives to feed individuals and families. Most urban gardens are tended by churches, community groups or nonprofit organizations. Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) and Cass Community Social Services are partnering with a nonprofit named Buckets of Rain to use urban farms to feed our clients. This approach helps alleviate some of the high costs of purchasing food to serve thousands of people in need each day.

In many ways, urban farming can help us break the cycle of homelessness and poverty that has afflicted our clients. We are able to spend more money on other services, such as transitional housing, job training and counseling.

Buckets of Rain constructs the urban gardens on abandoned city lots. In addition to feeding the community, the urban farms bring hope and a bright spot to blighted areas.

Our clients at DRMM have actively been involved in urban farming, too. It’s a part of their therapy. There’s a peace that comes with being one with nature and knowing that you are cultivating fresh, nutritious produce that will not only enrich your life, but also will help to sustain the community.

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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Government Shutdown Hurts Many

by Dr. Chad Audi

The partial shutdown of the federal government is an unfortunate situation that has the potential of impacting many people. Not only have federal employees been furloughed, but non-profit organizations like ours, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), will soon feel the effects of the government shutdown. We depend heavily upon federal funding to pay for our many programs and services that keep thousands of homeless individuals and families off the street and put them on the path to becoming self-sustaining.

If the government shutdown continues much longer, DRMM and other similar human and social services agencies around the country will be hurting, and so will the people who depend upon us for food, shelter, clothing, job training, educational classes, and more.

While DRMM has many generous private donors, a prolonged government shutdown will force us to depend more upon our friends and supporters to increase the amount and/or frequency of their donations in order for us to continue to function at our current capacity. That’s a lot to ask. Especially with today’s uncertain economy and high unemployment rates in many cities, including Detroit. The holiday shopping season is just around the corner, and it is likely consumer confidence will wane if the government shutdown is still going on, thereby hurting the overall economy even more.

What’s at issue here? Republicans are holding firm that they will only agree to fund and re-open the government if President Obama and Democrats agree to delay the implementation of the President’s healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act. The launch of the healthcare law occurred on October 1st, so Republicans are trying to stop something that has already begun.

It’s ironic that the same issues Democrats, Republicans and the White House are fighting about — spending and healthcare in these austere times — are now in jeopardy of getting worse due to the hundreds of thousands of government employees going every day without a paycheck and the ripple effect on the nation’s human services agencies that depend on government funding to feed and provide medical care for those in need. The longer the shutdown continues, the more victims it will create.

My message to the White House and Congress: Negotiate. Break the deadlock. There are no real winners in this battle — but a lot of people stand to lose.

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Homeless Flock to Ann Arbor

By Dr. Chad Audi

A recent Detroit News report stated that Ann Arbor, Michigan is dealing with an influx of homeless people who have come to the city for refuge over the past several years. The increase is being attributed to Ann Arbor’s longtime reputation for being a city that embraces the poor. There are numerous social service agencies in the city, and University of Michigan students tend to be more generous toward the homeless who ask for money.

So what does this increase in the number of homeless mean for Ann Arbor? According to the Detroit News article, the police chief says panhandling was a huge problem this summer and he considers it the “Number one crime.” The city’s 75-bed homeless shelter has instituted a county residency requirement to discourage outsiders. To be admitted, the person’s last stable home address must be in Washtenaw County. And homeless tent camps have been erected by the “outsiders”— homeless individuals from other parts of Michigan.

It’s definitely an interesting situation. The homeless reportedly like Ann Arbor because of easy access to shelter, food, medical services and temporary job opportunities. Meanwhile, complaints have mounted from business owners and residents, and U of M students are being encouraged to give donations to organizations that help the homeless rather than to individuals.

At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we service people from all over, as do many homeless shelters in big cities. It doesn’t matter where they are from or where they lived last. We offer services that will help put the disadvantaged on the path to long term success, such as health care, job placement assistance, and vocational training. And of course, we provide for their immediate needs: food, shelter and clothing.

But the homeless apparently perceive that a smaller city, like Ann Arbor, is safer and receives more federal, state and local funding for social services. Regardless of the number of resources, the most important thing to remember is that we all must be good neighbors and provide the most comprehensive assistance possible to give hope to the homeless and needy.

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