Local Agencies Agree Homelessness Affects Everyone

Written by Jason M. Chapman and Skye Conner

LANSING, MI — The many covered doorways of the  Central United Methodist Church located at 215 North Capitol Avenue in Lansing, on the northeast corner of Capitol and Ottawa have become shelter for the homeless on any given day.

The church is located one block north of the capitol building but is also in close proximity to the bus station and the public library, which have also become a resting place for some homeless during day time hours.

The church has become a haven for many of the town’s homeless and needy.

Frank Joranko  board member of The Open Door Ministry who serves also as a liaison between the ministry and the church itself greeted people as they entered the church.

Its mission is to provide sustenance, counseling, assistance and love to those of God’s children who find themselves in difficult circumstances and with few places to which they can turn. Its primary focus is on emergency or crisis situations, but the response is tailored to the circumstances.

The church was alive with activity. Approximately 40 homeless and needy persons shuffled in and out in 2 hours.

Nearly all seemed in good spirits. Volunteers were working hard putting out food and preparing lunch. I’m trying to do 15 different things at once, chuckled one of the office staff members

On the tour of the church, Frank explained that it was not only a food bank for the homeless, but it was a place where anyone could come regardless of what religion they were. Frank’s wife, Joyce Jaranko also works at the Ministry.

We don’t push our beliefs on anyone, If they want to join the congregation that’s fine, said Frank. We are here to help people, but anyone is welcome.

The Director of The Open Door Ministry, Chris  Bobier is used to dealing with the homeless population.

PHOTO – A warm place and warm food – Jerry Patterson, reads the newspaper while Marvin Combes, enjoys a hot cup of soup.  Both are homeless and looking for employment.  They were being fed at Central United Methodist Church.

In a  dining hall downstairs in the church that a large kitchen and tables that sat 121 people, Bobier said that eradicating homelessness was a passion of hers.

Bobier has been in social work for 16 years. She explained that they were building new showers and a new laundry facility so people could come in and wash if they needed to.

There is a shower, washer and a dryer now, but Bobier said that those two appliance were not nearly enough to handle the growing flux of people who need the services.

The food bank was also downstairs is funded by the Regional Red Cross and part of the Ingham County Food Bank.

The  food bank operates every Wednesday from 9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

The Open Door Ministry is open Monday through Friday from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm but as Mrs. Jaranko explained The door is always open.

On Thursday, the Ministry serves a big lunch and dinner. They also receive donations from another organization dedicated to assisting the homeless and needy with food, The Food Movers, on Tuesday.

The Food Movers rescues perishables from restaurants and grocery stores among other places and brings them to places like churches and shelters.

Bobier also indicated  that there is a meeting scheduled with Lansing City Planner Bob Johnson in regards to a proposal the churches are working towards concerning the old Oliver Towers complex.

The place has been empty for 8 years but it is still structurally sound even though it’s damaged, said  Bobier. The developers are looking to level the site probably to build luxury condominiums while homeless people are sleeping in the courtyard of the abandoned apartment and the parking garage across the street.

Across the country there is a need for public and private entities to work together    According to the Los Angeles Times,  Sonny Asanti a downtown residential developer recently donated $1.5 million that will allow the Skid Row Housing Trust to complete Abbey Apartments.  The building will house 115 efficiency apartments for the homeless mentally ill.

"We live in a time when federal and state funding often is used ineffectively and leaves little for public housing," Astani said, adding that Los Angeles has the largest homeless population in the nation. "This is a human tragedy, which not only destroys people but the social and economic vibrancy of the city as well. We all share responsibility in working to eliminate it."

Homelessness is a problem that can affect anyone. One serious turn of events in one’s life; the death of a loved one, divorce, domestic violence, physical disability  and workplace downsizing are some of the most prevalent factors.

According to Patrick Patterson, who is the Vice President of Operations at Volunteers of America, there were 700 homeless people in the Lansing area in 2005.

Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, spiritually based organization providing local human service programs, and opportunities for individual and community involvement.

Patterson said, "People who are not homeless, can support homeless programs and talk to elected officials.  The most important factor in assisting with this issue is in kind and cash donations.  Volunteering to assist homeless shelters or their programs also would help tremendously."

Most who are waging the war against homelessness know that partnerships with other organizations and foundation and corporate support are an important part in dealing with this issue.