2017-11-26 / Insight

‘Let’s choose to make a difference’

Area homeless seek help from ‘The Refuge’
BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Carrie Kennedy, host site coordinator for St. Paul Lutheran, colors with one of the children who has been a guest of The Refuge. 
Submitted photos Carrie Kennedy, host site coordinator for St. Paul Lutheran, colors with one of the children who has been a guest of The Refuge. Submitted photos LAPEER — From those who benefit from its services to the volunteers who keep it running, a local nonprofit serving Lapeer area’s homeless touches people myriad ways — and with hopes even more get involved on Giving Tuesday, aka #GivingTuesday.

Giving Tuesday — designated the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving — marks its fiveyear anniversary in 2017.

It was started by two nonprofits — 92nd Street Y and United Nations Foundation — “as a response to commercialization and consumers in the post-Thanksgiving season (Black Friday and Cyber Monday),” according to Wikipedia.

A reported $168 million was donated on Giving Tuesday in 2016, topping the 2015 total by 44 percent.


Volunteers at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lapeer prepare sack lunches for guests of The Refuge. Volunteers at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lapeer prepare sack lunches for guests of The Refuge. Lapeer’s The Refuge provides transitional housing to the area’s homeless, and aims to have a small part in Giving Tuesday breaking another record in 2017.

As The Refuge says on its website, “In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. This Giving Tuesday, let’s choose to make a difference in our world.”

Kendra Petty, co-founder and chair of the board of The Refuge, said the organization is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit faith-based ministry celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2017.

Based in area “host churches,” it primarily serves as a temporary emergency housing program aimed at helping homeless individuals and families that live in Lapeer County, and who “are ready, willing and able to transition out of homelessness.”


A volunteer at St. Paul Lutheran Church hands a lunch request form to a guest of The Refuge. 
Submitted photo A volunteer at St. Paul Lutheran Church hands a lunch request form to a guest of The Refuge. Submitted photo According to the organization’s “vision” on its website at www.therefugelapeer.org, “With the direct support of local churches and volunteers, The Refuge will provide housing, food, clothing, educational and/or vocational training, basic life skills, and spiritual guidance. The Refuge also depends on partnerships with other services, agencies, and programs throughout the county to achieve our vision.

“We want to be a stepping stone to help those experiencing homelessness regain independence.”

Though operated by a board of directors, Petty said day-today operations depend entirely on volunteers from area churches and individuals throughout Lapeer County (with more always welcome, Petty says.)

It operates during the coldest months of the year, starting the week of Thanksgiving and usually wrapping up in early April.

Up to 60 people annually receive assistance through The Refuge.

Petty said it’s hard to track how many homeless people live in Lapeer County, but said “our best approximation is about 300 people a year.”

The program is not intended to be a long-term solution, Petty says.

Rather, it delivers transitional housing via a structured system that emphasizes support and accountability. For example, adult residents must take a Breathalyzer test every evening, and random drug tests are administered.

“We’re definitely not a drop-in type shelter,” Petty said, adding the program “is a little more strict.”

“They have to do an intake interview, and go over our guest agreement, they have to be drug and alcohol free,” Petty said, adding violence and weapons are not tolerated.

“It’s not really rigid but it definitely has policies and rules and regulations,” Petty said.

In the end, she said, the hope is that people are able to secure housing, as well as any other services they might need, such as those related to mental health or substance abuse issues.

“We really try to help them get on track,” Petty said.

Petty says it costs about $45 a day to cover the costs of daily operations for up to 20 people.

The money, she says, is used to help cover various costs, from transportation to boots, socks, bedding, and some of the food, among other things.

Petty said The Refuge has replaced its “one-day campaign” with Giving Tuesday.

“We’re just looking for people to help offset our costs of operating,” Petty said.

The Refuge has created a page on its website that is specific to Giving Tuesday. It can be found at www.therefugelapeer.org/givingtuesday. html Those who prefer to donate via check can do so by sending to The Refuge, P.O. Box 1435 Lapeer, MI. 48446.

Call The Refuge at 810-356- 9880.

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