If there is a phraseology that best captures the attitude of fellow Michiganders when the going gets tough, it is perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson’s maxim that “difficulties exist to be surmounted.”
Michiganders don’t run away from tough challenges. Rather, they confront them with their can-do spirit.
We saw that spirit during the historic Detroit bankruptcy and we are seeing it in the ongoing comeback of the city.
So, when weather experts warned that the Polar Vortex would hit parts of the US so hard this week, and that the weather would be so cold here in Michigan that people would suffer frost bite or even death if they stayed outside, I was sure the people of Michigan would do all in their power to protect precious lives.
I was also sure I would have a “coalition of the willing” in ensuring that nobody is allowed to get frost bitten or die prematurely on the streets of Detroit when there are warming centers and shelters at their disposal.
In weather emergencies like this, the transient and chronically homeless men, women and children we at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (https://drmm.org) have served diligently since our founding in 1909 are at great risk. But persuading some of them to take advantage of our free and friendly services is not always easy.
Right now, we have over 450 persons in our male and female warming centers and shelters but we can still accommodate up to 100 more, using our cots and chairs, in keeping with our policy of never turning away anybody in need.
Also, we have opened a command center at our 3535 Third Street Detroit campus from where we dispatch two vans with experienced drivers and case managers to pick up homeless persons anywhere in Detroit.
But as was the case in previous weather emergencies, our street outreach teams are reporting that some homeless persons refuse their overtures to follow them to the warming centers, despite the very dangerous weather.
The law forbids us from forcing them to follow us to our warming centers and shelters but we will continue to go back to their sit-out locations and persuade them.
We strongly believe it is always better to stay in a warming center than to be out there in the life-threatening cold. And we make every effort to ensure that our warming centers are friendly and fun. The clients can watch TV, eat good and healthy food, get winter coats, hats and gloves, have hot shower and sleep in their own beds (or cots). They can also enjoy the professional attention and care of our case managers, if they so desire.
Please, join me in thanking all the wonderful individuals, families, groups and businesses that have called to inform us of where to pick homeless persons.
Can you imagine that we receive about 200 phone calls a day? That’s a clear indication that people really care.
Others volunteer their valuable time or send us much-needed checks.
Yes, Michiganders are tougher than any tough situation. They are also remarkably generous. I know this because I lead a nonprofit organization that depends a lot on their compassion and generosity to meet the needs of the over 2200 persons that turn to us each day for help at our various locations in 5 Michigan counties.
From youth volunteers that beam with infectious zeal to senior citizens that donate regularly, we get the extraordinary encouragement and support we need to help homeless, hungry and hurting persons get the life-changing services they so desperately need to become change agents in our communities.
This week alone, help has come from the length and breadth of Michigan.
Let me specifically mention Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services and Strategic Staffing Solutions that have kindly given cash donations as well as the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department and the Wayne County Executive Command Center that are providing technical support in our street outreach to homeless persons.
We are indeed grateful to all.
If you would like to be among those supporting our efforts to ensure that nobody is allowed to get frost bite or die on the streets of Detroit in this dangerous weather, please call 313-993-4700 or visit https://drmm.org/donate/ now to make a tax-deductible donation.
God bless you for being your brother’s and sister’s keeper.