Home For The Homeless

By Nick Lico/Photography by Larry Peplin

It’s a startling statistic: nearly 1,200 homeless students were reported to the Michigan Department of Education by Macomb County school districts during the 2019-2020 school year. Among the organizations helping to overcome this tragic situation is Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (MCREST). It provides meals, lodging, life-skills training, housing assistance, job readiness training, and emergency shelter 365 days each year to Macomb County’s homeless population.

For more than 30 years, MCREST has worked with a network of more than 70 churches to offer a rotating solution for guests experiencing homelessness. In 2020, MCREST helped nearly 600 individuals. While homelessness affects both genders, it’s especially difficult for single moms.

“Being a mom is challenging for any woman, but mothers experiencing homelessness face unique challenges,” said April Fidler, MCREST CEO. “By creating a caring place for mothers experiencing homelessness to receive support services, we will reduce stress on the entire family and wrap children with stability.”

That “caring place” is the newly renovated permanent women and children’s shelter in Mount Clemens. The building, which will open to guests in early 2022, will serve more than 45 women and children with emergency shelter, reducing the traumatic effect of homelessness in children by giving families a stable location to transition to self-reliance.

While women and children are in the program, they will be offered wraparound services, including transportation and childcare assistance, self-improvement classes and student tutoring. Meals will be provided by MCREST’s sponsoring churches.

Men experiencing homelessness will continue to be sheltered through MCREST’s church model.

MCREST will also expand operation of its Learning & Resource Center at the new shelter to better serve the homeless with job readiness and job placement support services. “Our Learning & Resource Center will open five days a week, up from three days. This will enable us to serve a greater number of people on an on-going basis,” Fidler said.

The expansion of the Learning & Resource Center aligns with MCREST’s focus during recent years on “housing first” interventions, as well as improving opportunities for economic self-sufficiency. Moving forward, expanded services will complement wraparound opportunities – such as transportation, access to Head Start, and childcare – that MCREST plans to offer at the shelter.

If you want to help MCREST continue to serve the homeless, you can volunteer at any of the participating churches or at MCREST’s office. Donations are always welcome, or you can participate in a couple fun events.

On October 8, the Starkweather Art Center in Romeo will be holding its annual Empty Bowl fund raiser in support of MCREST and the Free Food Pantry at the Congregational Church.

“Local people of all ages, and some local artists, have crafted clay bowls in our Carriage House clay studio all summer. These will be offered for a donation that will be given to local food pantries,” said Grace Venet, the art center’s secretary. The sales will take place right next door to the art center at Main’s Treat Coffee House. The Romeo Chamber of Commerce is holding their Art & Wine Walk in conjunction with the Empty Bowl fund raiser to bring people to downtown Romeo, enjoying arts, wine and giving back to the community.

Exactly one week later, MCREST will hold its annual Good Samaritan Awards fund raiser. Established in 2014, the event recognizes those organizations and individuals who selflessly offer their space and their time to help shelter the homeless in Macomb County. Venue details were still being finalized at the time of printing.

“We’re extremely grateful to the community for its overwhelming support. Our churches, for example, provide $1.2 million in-kind services annually. We couldn’t do what we do without their support,” Fidler said.

For more information, visit mcrest.org.

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