Winter and the holiday season is wonderful for many, but for those living in poverty, it can be the most difficult time of the year.
According to the annual report Ending Homelessness in Michigan, in 2016 there were 66,483 homeless individuals living in homeless shelters and on the streets.
Organizations are working together in Mecosta County to combat homelessness during the winter. Our Brothers Keeper shelter in Big Rapids does more than simply provide a place to stay, according to shelter manager Wanda Eldred.
“We let them know where to go for employment. If they want to work on their GED, we get them hooked up with that. If they need a social security card, if they need a birth certificate, if they need an ID, we direct them to those services. So we’re just kind of the hub. They start here and then we branch them out to everywhere else that can help them.” Eldred said.
Our Brothers Keeper, which is open in the evening from Nov. 1 to Apr. 30, serves a wide range of guests and the shelter had served 26 people as of early December.
In addition to the volunteers at the shelter, Ferris students are working to help the less fortunate through RSOs. The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) worked with Angels of Action, a non-profit organization in Big Rapids, to host the third annual Tie Blanket Initiative in early December. The organization collected fleece blanket donations and made blankets to donate to children in need.
Ferris public relations senior and PRSSA Vice President of Campus and Community Outreach Brooke Bewak said the blanket drive was rewarding because volunteers could see the results locally.
“It gives people on campus and students and even faculty members and staff a chance to really make a difference in the community. A lot of times if you donate to other organizations that are much bigger than your community, you don’t always see that effect. I think you could actually see this make a difference in the community and you can know that your donation is helping a child stay warm this winter that literally lives possibly down the street from you.” Bewak said.
Ferris students can get involved in many community service projects on campus. However, off campus, Eldred encourages students and community members to volunteer and help start a mentor program at the shelter.
“Mentors would be wonderful. We’ve tried several times to get a mentoring program off the ground but it takes people to do that. We just don’t have it. We would like to follow them and we know that the more support they have, the better they’re going to do, and they won’t fall back into those old ways if they have someone to be accountable to, and to help them and just be there for them. So that would be a good thing.” Eldred said.
For more information about how to help Our Brothers Keeper Shelter, please visit www.obkshelter.org/.