Happy New Year everyone!
I wanted to take a moment to share with you all some highlights from The Refuge 2015 year.
It's been a big year for us full of changes and activity. We started this year in one place and we are ending in two different places!
This year was also the beginning of our newly structured program that includes policies to encourage positive change, supportive services, advocacy and financial assistance to achieve permanent housing and independence.
Here's the top highlights of 2015
1. Saving lives!
Three guests were at the point that taking their lives seemed the only way out before entering The Refuge. Our shelter was their last ditch effort. It was a beautiful thing to behold as each one was transformed by the love of Christ showered on them by volunteers of The Refuge.
2. Restoring hope!
When I sit down with our guests to discuss their situation and how we can help achieve their goals, its exciting to see their hope renewed. Many times a guest is ready to move forward, but they lack the direction and/or focus to do it. We get to help clarify that and assist in them in the process forward.
3. Overcome obstacles!
The best part for us, is when we are able to help a guest overcome a major obstacle. It could be schooling, transportation, or a job, but most often it's providing a security deposit to move into a place of their own. It's been a very humbling experience to sit across from a guest as he/she cries because I've just told them that, "We can help you with that".
4. Sharing Jesus!
The absolute best part of every year is when we share not only the love of Jesus, but the Good News of Jesus. There are countless volunteers, musicians, and churches that minister through song, testimony, prayer, service and teaching. Many guests have rededicated their lives or accepted Christ for the first time. Many are now involved in a local church and some even serve through The Refuge. How beautiful to see Jesus change a life!
None of this would happen, though, without your continued support through your gifts of time, money and prayer.
As a thank you, we've put together this short video. Hope you enjoy!
Thank you and God bless you in the new year!
Don't forget to watch this awesome highlight
Written by Kendra Petty
Let’s recall that the mandate of Jesus was not actually that we agree with one another, it was actually much more challenging. We are supposed to love each other, which is really, really hard—and pretty much impossible if our lives are not lived together.
Our community is suffering. We have a glaring homeless problem in our midst that we aren't addressing. Solving this complex problem begins with listening to each other, removing the blame and shifting the responsibility to all of us. We need to get together in the same room, look at the existing assets of our community and begin to seek a solution.
We have people out there living in tents, sleeping in cars, or on couches, moving from house to house and they are wondering if it will ever change.
Say what you want about why these people are homeless or what you think the homeless should be doing to move forward, we are never going to agree. That's not the point.
Bottom line, the homeless are people. People made by God. Jesus still died for them to save them that they might have life.
Their lives matter. Let's agree on that and do our part to make sure they know that in our community, people matter.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Come on, let's move this town forward together you and I. It won't happen through one agency, organization, or church. It won't happen at all, unless we come together and make it happen.
Speak up by contacting your commissioner. Talk to your church leaders. Contact The Refuge and let us know you want to be a part of change in our community.
There are solutions. Other communities are far ahead of ours in implementing innovative and effective plans to address homelessness. We CAN do this together.
Who is my commissioner? Find out at this link http://lapeercountyweb.org/whois.htm
The Refuge contact: www.therefugelapeer.org
Written by Charla Arnold
Lapeer loves all of their people, no matter where they live. This week our homeless in the area almost had their tents taken, thankfully everyone is ok and safe. Its been the talk of the town, which could be bad or good. Its bad because there are a ton of rumors flying around. Good because we are all talking about a very important issue…. those struggling without a home. We want everyone to realize...these are ordinary people just like you and I. the only difference...they fell on hard times.
The Refuge functions simply...we have a calendar, a church signs up and is in charge of signing up volunteers and meals for one week. It is very, very hard to get people to sign up after April. I know this personally because I was trying this year to keep us open. I had a volunteer working under me who contacted every church in Lapeer County. We had some offers of buildings and people, but not enough to be able to run successfully. So we had to do what we have done every spring for 12 years. We closed, and we handed out tents.
Over the last 3 years, it has been increasingly harder for anyone who’s homeless to find a place to put a tent without running into trouble. This year was no different and sooner rather than later, those staying in tents were asked to vacate. We had a very small window to try to figure out ways to help them. Some left the county, others went to stay with friends. One was able to get in an apartment and some we have no idea where they are. I would personally like to thank Kendra for dealing with that. She's my hero.
Things escalated when the channel 12 news story hit and accusations were flying. There is a lot of misinformation going around and I would like to clear it up.
Together we can change this.
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Written by Kendra Petty
It was an exciting day. Homeschoolers in Action, were helping Ronada and her two daughters move into their new apartment. I tagged along with my camera in hand to capture on video the occasion .
Standing in a narrow hallway of on old house turned into apartments, I took a moment to ask Ronada about her experience staying at The Refuge.
She stayed with The Refuge for about a month. Ronada says she was scared when she first came, but the people volunteering were so caring, they made her feel welcomed. She even made lasting connections with with other guests in The Refuge and with volunteers. The whole experience had been a positive one that she hadn't expected.
We had a great conversation among the chaos of moving, and I felt I got a lot of great footage for a video I'm working on. The volunteers from the Homeschoolers in Action brought some pizzas in for a lunch break, so I decided it was a good time to wrap things up and be on my way. Standing in her tiny kitchen saying my goodbyes, she looked at me with tears in her eyes. Ronada redirected her two girls to a task in another room then said something that I'll never forget. Before coming to The Refuge, Ronada says she had been in a very dark place. With a tear running down her face and with great emotion she said "I know I would not be alive today if not for you (The Refuge). You saved my life."
I went away humbled. It's so easy to get caught up in all the distractions that come with keeping The Refuge moving along that I lose sight of what it's all for.
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,f you were doing it to me!’
Jesus said that somehow when I help others in need, in reality I'm helping Him . A great mystery. that I'm willing to participate in. I do this because I love Him and this is how I can show it. Thanks Ronada for the privilege of being a part of your life, and for the profound reminder that I'm doing this for Jesus.
by: Charla Arnold
There's a shiny new plaque now hanging in our office. Our very own Director and Co-Founder, Kendra Petty was awarded the 2015 Citizen of the Year Award by the Lapeer Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Refuge has come along way in the 12 years since it started with a dream and a lunch meeting at Burger King. 12 years later... it has changed both the lives of our guests and those who have volunteered. It is a beautiful example of the Body of Christ working together to help the community.
We have learned a lot over twelve years, and are very thankful for everyone who helps make this ministry work. Without you The Refuge would not be possible, nor would Kendra have won this beautiful award. This really is an award that all of you share in. This award stands for all of the hours of love and prayer every one of you have invested... from scheduling workers, cooking, showing up to help with shifts, helping with check ins and countless other jobs our volunteers do...we would like to say thank you.
As a board we are simply caretakers of a ministry that belongs to you, the churches and community.
We have come a long way from that day at Burger King, but we still have big dreams we would like to see for this community. The most important being a warming center. Right now there are very limited options for people to go to stay warm during the day and that is a major prayer focus for us at this time. And we still have the dream of a permanent shelter so that The Refuge will not have to continue traveling. That dream almost came true this year, but unfortunately was not able to be realized. But we are still looking forward to the day when that dream will become reality. So thank you everyone for all that you do, because the reality is you are all citizens of the year. and we appreciate you.
The primary purpose of the Refuge is to share the good news of Jesus Christ and to facilitate the provision of transitional shelter, food, and support services to the homeless of Lapeer County. In order to meet this goal, we facilitate, coordinate and assist participating congregations and community agencies in providing services to the homeless. The dream for the property on Newark was to have a permanent location where these goals would be met. These guidelines that we work by includes working with the community and the township to insure the legality of our work. The township placed certain parameters on the Refuge. The Refuge agreed and vowed to live within these parameters.
A generous person who had similar goals as the Refuge bought the property on Newark in hopes that the Refuge would partner with them in serving the homeless in Lapeer County. We looked forward to working together with the owner to accomplish our goals. However, even though our goals are similar, our methods differed and stretched us beyond the parameters we had set for ourselves as well as those the township had set for the Refuge. Although we are very grateful to the owner of the Newark property, we had to separate from our partnership. The owner has a big heart and the Refuge wishes many blessings in Christ in doing the work of generously giving to the kingdom of God. We are pleased to know that the owner will continue in work with one of our partners Stone Soup as a farm to produce food. We look forward to working with the owners in the future in providing an avenue for our work programs.
If you would like to know more about this issue and what the Refuge is planning for the future come to our public meeting this Sunday, December 14 at 3PM at the Lapeer Event Center 655 N Saginaw St..
Author: Andrew Terry
One night I had no home. I was cold. I was cramped. It was interesting. I have a home to go to. But this night we wanted to experience homelessness. We dreamed an event to raise awareness about the homelessness in our cities and in our county. So for One Night we invite youth and churches to spend a night without a home; to experience what it is like to have no home. The old adage of being so poor you "don't have a pot to piss in" becomes a reality for many.
The night we planned our event just so happened to fall on the same night that several other events were going on around Lapeer county. Also, at the last minute we had to change venues. But God still moved Twelve people chose to spend One Night homeless. Initially we were discouraged that so few had showed up. We had a band, The Saviors Army (TSA), and a speaker, Junior Ramos of the Few, traveling to minister to our group. I called them to tell them they were not needed, we did not have enough people. Dusty, the lead singer of TSA said,"Are you going to be there?" I said, "Yes." He then said, "Even if you're the only one we are coming anyway." They drove across the whole state just to minister at our little event. All we had to offer them was hot coffee.
We sat around our little bonfire and listened to the band play and to Junior who spoke a beautiful message. Then Justin, one of the band members gave his testimony. When he was younger he had been homeless for 6 months.He lived in a small town here in Michigan where he slept under bridges. He shared how God had brought him out of homelessness and gave him new life. After, Junior spoke again encouraging us that what we were doing mattered. He share a story about a family member that is currently struggling with homelessness. He spoke of the pain of being homeless. And he spoke of how when we are kind to those who are the least of these we are truly showing God's love to the world around us.
Then the night climaxed with Dusty the lead singer speaking to our group of 12. He said, "Yes you are a very small group. But Christ took 12 disciples and turned the world upside down. In the Body of Christ it only takes 1 person used by God to make a difference. You don't have to be the best. You don't have to be the most equipped. You don't have to be the most popular. You simply have to be willing to hold out living water to those who are thirsty around us." That night TSA played a song called Fade. Some of the lyrics say, "Sometimes you feel like you're walking through a desert land. You try to share your water but no one cares. Don't loose your hope, don't let it fade." The song encouraged us to never loose our hope in helping the homeless no matter how small our group or resources.
From the outside it appears that we are providing shelter to the homeless during the cold months. It appears we are helping people to transition out of homelessness. It appears that we are providing job skills, training, and substance abuse counseling. But what we really have to give is living water in a land that is dry and thirsty. This living water will heal. It will rebuild. It will save. This living water is Jesus Christ himself. We do what we do not because we want to give warm shelter to the homeless during the winter. We do what we do because we want to show the love of Jesus Christ. We want to see the lives of the homeless changed so that they never suffer homelessness again.
One Night can make all the all the difference in the world. Won't you give a night or two in order to help spread this living water? You can volunteer here. Also, share this post with your friends and family. Encourage your church to get involved. And always you can support the Refuge here.
Written by: Charla Arnold
Edited by: Andrew Terry
Everyone is concerned for the homeless, especially in cold weather. The Refuge board is aware of the challenges that cold weather brings. Many are depending upon the Refuge this season. We are working hard to gather volunteers and churches to insure we can meet the needs of those who want to transition out of homelessness. Unfortunately, the Refuge does not open until November 30th. The Refuge depends heavily upon volunteers and churches in our area. When there are no volunteers or churches getting involved with the Refuge it is hard to cover one season. Our dream is to be a year round transitional housing program. But we lack the volunteers to make that dream happen. If you want to get involved for immediate help for the homeless please pray. Above all else we need your prayers. Also, you can volunteer. You can be an intake worker or help your local church house the homeless for a week. Finally, tell someone about the Refuge. Share this post. Volunteer with friends. Get your church involved. The Refuge cannot do it without you.
We don’t know yet what we need to cease and desist from, but the Lapeer Township board has let us know that a document is being drawn up by their lawyers and then will be sent on its way to us.
This came about since the article broke in the Lapeer County Press about The Refuge’s grand opening celebration for our new transitional housing program and farm collaborative with Stone Soup Food Pantry.
We want everyone to understand what we are trying to accomplish with this new direction for The Refuge. So, we’ve put together this collection of facts for all of you. The Refuge wishes to be transparent and above reproach. If anyone has questions, please don’t hesitate to talk to one of our board members or email us at email@example.com.
1. What is transitional housing?
Transitional housing is supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness. Transitional housing programs assist people who are ready to move beyond emergency shelter but need additional supportive services to move out of homelessness.
Some transitional program participants live in apartment-style quarters, while others may be in group settings where several families or individuals share a household.
Stays are limited and can last up to 12 months.Transitional housing programs are structured, emphasizing support and accountability. The rules that are in place encourage a safe and healthy environment for all residents.
The Refuge’s program provides all of the above in a shared household. In addition we provide training for job skills, help in finding employment, substance abuse programs, and family life training. The Refuge is able to do this by working with various agencies within the community to provide accurate and appropriate resources for our residents.
All of this will be done on a farm generously given to the Refuge. The farm will be a fully functional farm where those who are in the transitional housing program will be able to work while they are residents.
2. What is transitional housing not?
Transitional housing is NOT a homeless shelter. In a homeless shelter, people can come in off the streets and find food, a warm bed, and a roof in a temporary emergency situation. Persons in need of our services must qualify for our program. We want to go beyond the immediate needs of the homeless. These are only symptoms of homelessness. The concern for the Refuge is the whole person and helping them through a crisis in their lives. This is a help-up not a hand-out.
This program will be beneficial in keeping the homeless of the streets long term. The homeless now live in tents in the woods, behind businesses and abandoned buildings, and even in our back yards. They go from shelter to shelter and the deeper need is never addressed. The mandate of Jesus Christ is that we welcome the stranger in and help them.
Some do understand what we are trying to accomplish in our great city. The Lapeer Township zoning ordinances do not include language allowing for transitional housing. In order to change these ordinances the Lapeer Township is requiring several items which will take time. With the requirements placed upon The Refuge by the Lapeer Township we are being delayed in our efforts.
With the winter season just around the corner this will only prolong the efforts of The Refuge in helping men, women, and children who wish to transition out of homelessness. Perhaps the better solution for the Lapeer Township is compromise. Instead of "cease and desist" maybe we could all come to the table and work out our differences and help those who are in most need. With winter approaching this needs to be done very soon and without delay.
I'm a mother of two teenagers. Married to my awesome husband of 20 years. I don't work. I volunteer. I am a founding member of The Refuge shelter and involved in inspiring projects in my church, and community.