Happy New Year to you, our MCREST friends and family! We are thrilled you have tuned in for our first 2024 edition of MCREST Monthly, your place to get the skinny on everything we've been up to as an organization and learn about those who help us provide a footprint of impact as wide as possible.
With these frigid temperatures keeping us all huddled inside our homes and offices, these are the moments where MCREST and the other wonderful organizations helping those experiencing homelessness in Macomb County are most needed to show up and do what we do. Our case managers, our front line staff, they have been showing up for each person walking through our doors and we would be remiss not to offer our huge gratitude during these hard months.
It takes so many helping hands to lift up those amongst us without a place to go. This newsletter is designed to educate you about their acts of service and illuminate the experiences of the human beings going through one of those most difficult tests one can endure.
We thank you for being here.
Reporter Megan Woods recently made a visit to our shelter and WDIV Local 4/Click on Detroit featured MCREST in a segment on the 11PM news Sunday, January 21 (on the same night of their coverage of the Lions' historic victory!) They showcased our efforts to provide emergency shelter during the life-threatening cold temperatures in Macomb County and spotlighted our campaign for financial support.
In the feature, our Executive Director, April Fidler, and Board President, John Johnson, emphasized the pressing need for additional resources to accommodate more individuals seeking shelter during the harsh winter months. MCREST has been diligently working to accommodate a surge in individuals seeking refuge from the frigid temperatures, and your support has been instrumental in this mission.
As highlighted in the segment, MCREST has already raised $15,000, thanks to the generous contributions from supporters like you. However, the battle against the cold is far from over, and we need your continued assistance to reach our $20,000 goal (and, maybe, even further).
Why Your Continued Support Matters:
Urgency Persists: While we've made significant progress, the battle against the cold is far from over. Your continued support is crucial to securing hotel rooms and providing a warm, safe space for those in desperate need.
What Your Contribution Supports:
Emergency Shelter: Funds raised go directly to securing additional hotel rooms, allowing us to expand our capacity to serve more individuals facing the life-threatening cold.
Immediate Impact: Your contribution ensures that individuals in need find a warm, safe place to protect themselves from frostbite and organ failure.
We want to express our deep gratitude for your ongoing support. Your commitment to our mission is what makes stories like this news feature possible. It's a testament to the collective difference we can make in the lives of those experiencing homelessness.
Please consider sharing the Local 4 news story on your social media platforms to further amplify our message and impact.
Face of Homelessness
of our guests are children
At MCREST, we confront the multifaceted nature of homelessness, each statistic shedding light on a distinct aspect of the struggle. In 2022, 21% of those we served were children, belonging to 518 families served. This statistic highlights the pressing need to the profound disruption and impact homelessness has on the youngest members of our community.
Individual donors to our Returning Home campaign past November-December
In a display of collective generosity, 173 members of our MCREST community joined hands to contribute over $150,000 to our annual Returning Home campaign. This outpouring of support echoes louder than mere numbers; it signifies a shared commitment to combating homelessness in our community.
A heartfelt thank you to each donor for these invaluable contributions. Each dollar will be directly invested into the needs of our guests, whether it goes towards rental assistance, food, bus tickets, certifications and trainings through our Learning and Resource Center, or the general operations of our shelter. We are so incredibly grateful for the support of all of you.
It was a long 8 year journey to open our Women and Children's Shelter. Over that time, we overcame many struggles to plant our flag in the ground and create a permanent shelter to create structure, support and serve as a bastion of hope for those we serve.
We had to purchase the existing building, clean out all the hazardous materials, knock it down and sketch out the new one, raise the money and then actually build it brick by brick. Whew.
Since April 2022, things have flourished with the Women and Children's Shelter transforming the scale and size of what MCREST can do literally and figuratively. 2023 was a year of expansion where, with our new home base established, we were able to serve more guests than any year before.
And for 2024?
We're setting our sights even higher, and also right next door.
With the staggeringly generous donation of $140,000 from Women's League at Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton Township (our stalwart partner and founding member church) we were able to secure the adjacent building and we're working with Partners in Architecture to design and renovate it into a permanent Men's Shelter.
The men in our program are still sheltered in the way our organization has functioned since 1985; by being hosted week-to-week by different partner churches in our network or in hotel rooms paid for by those churches or us. They are currently utilizing the Learning and Resource Center in our WC shelter, but this new building will give them a more secure place to rest their heads and get back on their feet.
Also in the works: John Johnson, our Board President, has led the way in offering a service not seen anywhere else in our county: a place for those experiencing homelessness to bring their pets; their vital companions. A dog kennel will be attached to the building named Ellanore's House where medical care will be provided gratis by Detroit Pit Crew, a canine rescue organization.
You will be hearing much more about this Men's Shelter in 2024 and how you can get involved to help this vision become a reality! We have applied for grants that we are patiently waiting to hear about and after that we intend to start pedaling the bike to get this place built. The Women and Children's Shelter took some time to get on it's feet, but we know that with the building already secured and the blueprint for success already established, we know this important resource for those without a roof of their own will be open before we know it to offer hope, care and healing.
As all nonprofits do, we apply for grants. We do fundraising drives. We get some government funding. We engage with the local businesses. But when things get particularly tough, whether it is items that are urgently needed, tasks that consume time, care or our stores of hope and inspiration are running low: the community responds and makes a difference.
Here are two individuals who have raised their hands, stepped up to the plate, and used their skills of coordination and their genuine investment and purpose to utilized their communities to make extraordinary contributions.
Sierra Kudsin put out the word that she wanted to do a blanket drive for MCREST. A flyer she made was circulated onine and started to take off amongst her Facebook friends. Through this gesture and continued attention, Sierra was able to gather 135 blankets that she donated the day after Christmas. What a true gift!
Dominic is an inspiring young man who created a nonprofit called Dominic's Christmas Wish. We were stunned when he arrived with 23 boxes full of essential items that we are constantly in need of: shampoo, soap, toothpaste, pajamas, hats, coats, books, toys, and even more. He has gone above and beyond in this amazing act and we thank him for this donation!
We consider ourselves so lucky to be one of the beneficiaries of the Blessing Bags Brigade. Children staying in our shelter who might not have any presents to open on their birthday do because of the heartwarming efforts of Greg and Sharon Malo to ensure they do not feel forgotten. They also commit themselves to distributing hygiene bags so that everyone in Macomb always has access to the products we all take for granted.
The people who work for nonprofits often do so out of a sense of purpose. There is a real bond felt in the office when you feel united in a mission and your teammates in that mission do take on the feeling of a family.
Well today we bring you the story of two of our staff who actually are real life family! Judy Dudek, BSHS (Support Services Coordinator) has been a beloved MCREST employee for some time. Kelly Dudek (Front Desk Specialist) is a newer staff member who has made an instant impact in the organization. They are also mother and daughter!
We asked them what it was like to work with family and to share their experiences with you.
What motivated each of you to join MCREST, and how did you become a part of the organization?
Judy: I joined MCREST in September 2015 when I needed to complete the first internship for my bachelor’s degree. I stayed at MCREST for the second internship as well until I graduated in July of 2016. I decided to volunteer until there was a part-time position available. I worked part-time for two weeks and then transitioned into a full-time position almost 8 years ago. Needless to say, I love the work we do at MCREST!
Kelly: My passion for helping people has been something I have grown fond of from a young age. From personal lived experience to seeing the great things MCREST has done through my mother Judy’s experience these last 9 years, it seemed fit to where I needed to be- somewhere I can relate to those in need, they can relate to me and to be able to help them with open, nonjudgmental arms.
Can you share a memorable experience or moment that stands out to you during your time working at MCREST?
Judy: There was an elderly couple that came to MCREST after living on the streets for several years. Their physical and mental health were severely affected from their dire circumstances. After being in the program for an extended time, they both worked hard and did what they needed to do to find a permanent place to live. Watching them unlock the door to their first apartment in 15 years brought tears to my eyes. This experience reminds me why I do what I do each day.
Kelly: There are moments daily that I could share as memorable here at MCREST but to name a few; seeing the change in people’s facial expressions when you tell them you’re there to help, the difference in their confidence when they first came to us vs. how they carry their head high with a smile on their faces days later, and being able to build a trust with people who wouldn’t even look you in the face upon arrival.
How does it feel to share the workplace with a family member, and what advantages does it bring to the work environment?
Judy: My daughter has watched me from the beginning of my career at MCREST and has always been supportive and happy for me because she knows how much I love what I do. She recently joined our team and is an amazing asset. She has a lot of compassion and empathy for those we serve and understands what our guests deal with because she is a young single mother as well. I think the guests are comfortable with her because she treats them the way she wants to be treated and she has been in their shoes. I believe it is an advantage to work with a family member because it feels more like a home environment to our guests.
Kelly: Working with my mother feels no different than working with the other staff here at MCREST. From the front desk specialist to the CEO, the type of work our careers entail are not for the weak and if your heart isn’t in a work like this, you’re not going to last in the field. Everyone here at MCREST understands what we do on a daily basis, so we are all able to have an understanding of how important it is to be supportive of one another. I really feel like everyone here takes that into consideration. That being said, we naturally come together as a union here at MCREST.
How do you think the family-oriented atmosphere at MCREST influences the way you interact with guests and colleagues?
Judy: I would want our guests and my coworkers to feel like they are part of my family and that I care about them. That is something that I have tried to live by. It is sometimes a balancing act to uphold the rules and policies of our program but also to make sure that people know that they are cared for and are important and valued.
Kelly: Having the influence of a family-oriented atmosphere presents a positive influence & support by leading by example. Every family has its troubles; it’s how we come together to get through them that matters. Our clients and guests included.
What have you learned from the experiences of the people you've served?
Judy: What I have learned from the experiences of the people I have served at MCREST is that many of the people are not much different than me. We have many of the same goals. We have the same needs. We all want to be accepted, loved, cared for and cared about, needed, and wanted.
Kelly: Through all walks of life; expect the unexpected, serve with no judgment and care with open arms.
Guest Success Story
MCREST's Rapid Rehousing Program tries to intervene at key moments to get people back on their feet. The program offers security deposits and up to six months of rental assistance to candidates who have found steady employment and are more than ready to create their own security. All they need is some help to get a proper start and secure hard-to-find properties in the rental market.
This month, we are coming to you with the story of a former guest who through determination and strong character has made his way back to permanent housing.
Scott Pelshaw spoke with Gina Joseph of the Macomb Daily for an article about MCREST and we will let him tell his story in his own words. Here is the excerpt from Gina's article where he outlines his experience with homelessness and his feelings about making his way back to stability:
“I wouldn’t mind doing that, helping out. Telling people my story and the steps I took to get back on my own,” said Pelshaw, 61, and soon-to-be-a permanent resident of Mount Clemens.
“I’m moving into an apartment,” Pelshaw said, his tone full of pride and joy.
As with others who find themselves suddenly homeless, Pelshaw was working and though only making minimum wage, paying his bills and the rent for an apartment he shared with his girlfriend.
Or so he thought.
Turn’s out she was squandering the money for bills, so they were evicted.
“It’s hard. You go into shock. You worry about your future and what you’re going to do,” he said, recalling last summer when he found himself homeless. “I walked the streets for three days.”
At one point he passed out and had to be admitted to the hospital. He was treated for heat exhaustion and, after being released found himself, once again on the streets. Only this time he sought out shaded areas.
“I stayed in bus stops. I stayed in parks. I laid in the grass. One time there was this festival that left behind these porta-potties. The handicap one was pretty big so I stayed in there,” Pelshaw said.
As bad as that sounds at night Pelshaw slept with one eye open. Since the door on the portable toilet could be locked he felt safe enough to close his eyes and slept soundly for the first time in days.
That was his shelter before he heard about MCREST and found his way into their program.
“If you’re ever in a situation like I was in the first place you should go to MCREST. They’ve been really kind and helpful. But you have to help yourself. I met a lot of guys who aren’t worried about getting a house. They just do their 90 days (so they can stay there) and move on. If you’re willing to do the work chances are you’ll find a place.”
“I’m so excited. A place to call my own. I owe it all to MCREST,” Pelshaw said. “God works in mysterious ways. As bad as it was for me, I’m still here to talk about it, to give back. Even if I can reach one guy it would be worth it.”
A thank you to our partner churches.
For every tray of food. For every cot unfolded. For every pillow fluffed and sheet pressed. For every coat donated. For every doorknob wiped and counter sprayed. For every washer and dryer cycle. For every bottle of water or bottle of shampoo. For every toy at Christmastime. For every smile unearthed after weeks or months of hardship.
For the kindness. For the stewardship. For the gentleness. For the patience. For the graciousness. For the sweat, the hours, the plans made and remade, the quick fixes and the open arms.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
December 10 - January 21
Bethel Lutheran Church, St. Clair Shores
St. Hubert's Catholic Church, Eastpointe
St. Margaret of Scotland Church, St. Clair Shores
Trinity Lutheran Church, Clinton Township