The sun was setting on a cold November evening in Downtown Flint, and Carriage Town Ministries, a faith-based rescue mission located on Garland Street, was bustling with activity. Members of the Greater Galilee Church were leading a service in the chapel. “Never give up,” said the worship leader. “God wants to bless His people and we are all God’s people.” Volunteers were busy preparing a hot meal, waiting to serve Downtown’s neediest. This is what CTM does, according to Nic Gaitlin, Development Director. He says there are many different reasons why a person becomes homeless. “It can affect anyone at any time,” says Nic. “I’ve seen people from all walks of life come through our doors – from the uneducated to those with a Ph.D.”
A non-profit organization, CTM is currently in its 63rd year serving the people of Flint, and is open to anyone in need. Since 1950, the city’s committed people have rolled up their sleeves and given generously of their time, talents and financial resources to reach out in love and warmth to those in need. In addition to providing shelter to the homeless, CTM also distributes clothing, food, academic support, work skills education and counseling to those who are struggling.
On a nightly basis, about 30-90 people are sheltered at CTM. The rescue mission offers shelter to men, women and children, with 65 beds in the men’s shelter and 35 beds in the women’s shelter. The women’s rooms are also equipped to accommodate children. A meal is served at 5:30pm every evening and a church service is held in the chapel prior to the dinner.
Nic says that Carriage Town provides those in need with a “hand up,” not a “hand out.” Men and women come in wanting to change their situations but they need help to restore their lives. CTM provides opportunities for them to learn and equip themselves. The chapel is used as a dayroom, and a retired teacher offers a computer class. Those who complete the nine-week course are presented a certificate. “What’s neat about the certificate is that it counts as an entry level class at Mott Community College,” Nic exclaimed. The students also receive a donated computer free of charge upon completion of the class.
Over the past year and a half, CTM has worked hard to incorporate a health and wellness component into their program. They partnered with the National Kidney Foundation’s Enhance Fitness Program, which provides residents of CTM and the community an hour of instructor-led group fitness twice a week. CTM has also partnered with Hurley’s Medical Education Department. Once a month, medical residents come to CTM to provide medical and health related education and counseling. “We’ve also started a free clinic run by Dr. Jack Stoker,” Nic added. Once a week, residents and others from the community who qualify for services can schedule an appointment for health screening and preventative care.
In addition to all these services, there is a mentoring program offered at Carriage Town. Residents get one-on-one assistance in setting goals, and putting a plan on paper. The plan consists of three goals: Education, Life Skills and Knowing God. According to Nic, the spiritual aspect is the core of CTM. The rescue mission is Christian-based, and local churches from all over come in to lead the half-hour service. Nic said while CTM practices Christianity, there are a lot of people with different beliefs walking through the doors.
At Carriage Town, the holiday season is a very busy time. “Volunteers are always needed,” says Nic. “We can’t have too many at this time of year.” According to Cindy
Johns, Volunteer Coordinator, over 300 children benefitted last year from CTM’s Adopt a Family event, and she expects to do more this year. A toy program also provides Christmas gifts for kids. “Our volunteers find it very rewarding to help people find the confidence to regain their lives,” she said.
“The holidays spark something within people who don’t have a community,” Nic says. “We give the homeless a sense of home during whatever struggle they may be facing. We become their family,” he smiled.
PHOTOS BY TRACI TURNER
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