It is now a full-service shelter for women, male and female single parents, and two-parent households experiencing homelessness-contributing circumstances.
Did you know that every night, right here in Genesee County, more than 200 individuals are living in emergency shelters? According to Shelly Hoffman, Development Director at Shelter of Flint, Inc., countless others live on the streets, sleeping on a friend’s couch, in a car or an abandoned building.
A nonprofit organization, Shelter of Flint, Inc. works hard to combat homelessness in this area and has a mission to provide safe housing, independence and stability to homeless individuals. Founded in 1983, it was originally a women’s shelter, Hoffman reports.
It is now a full-service shelter for women, male and female single parents, and two-parent households experiencing homelessness-contributing circumstances. And, about 60 percent of the people who come into the emergency shelter are children under the age of ten; about 40 percent are homeless for the first time. “It is not just a ‘night’ shelter,” says Hoffman. “It is a home for people without a home. The Shelter is full nearly all year round.”
Shelter of Flint works under the principle that housing is a right not a privilege, Hoffman shares. “Our goal is that everyone who comes through the Shelter doors will move into a home of their own. And when it comes to helping people get back on their feet, there is no time limit – we don’t push them out. We want them to find a place where they can stay and thrive.” Often, an entire family is homeless and it is harder to find affordable housing for a large family. The rising cost of housing is another ongoing challenge.
According to Hoffman, a team of approximately 30 staff provide direct care at the shelter – case management, food service, cleaning service and maintenance. A four-person Outreach Team goes out in the street, giving people clothing and food and providing other services. There are also four staff who work the Permanent Supportive Housing program, providing supportive services to the Shelter’s homeless clients with emotional, mental or physical disabilities. “All Permanent Supportive Housing clients are provided with affordable rent, case management, life skills workshops and other programs that improve their quality of life,” Hoffman says.
Shelter of Flint receives its funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with funds filtered through fiduciaries including the City of Flint, Genesee County and the State of Michigan, Hoffman explains.
They also receive monetary support from foundations, individuals and businesses, as well as in-kind donations. “We are very busy and underfunded,” Hoffman notes.
There are a variety of volunteer opportunities at Shelter of Flint, according to the Development Director. “This year, we have had a couple hundred volunteers,” she says. There are five volunteers who do things on a routine basis and groups also come in to provide a day of service.
What does homelessness in Genesee County look like?
“Homelessness is everywhere,” Hoffman states. “It is not always something you can see, as people move from place to place. We have found that most Shelter residents have some sort of income or job. They live paycheck to paycheck.” And, just one small thing can happen to derail the budget and cause a person to become homeless, she adds. “One little thing –
a car repair – can send a family into homelessness. It’s not a case of laziness or bad money management; people just don’t have enough to make ends meet. Sometimes, choices have to
be made: Should I buy food, pay the rent or repair the car so
I can get to work? “
“Sometimes, choices have to be made: Should I buy food, pay the rent or repair the car so I can get to work? One little thing – a car repair – can send a family into homelessness.”
Mental illness or disability challenges can also be a factor when a person becomes homeless. Through the Case Management Services, the Shelter works in partnership with other organizations to provide mental health care and other needed services.
Hoffman, who recently celebrated four years at Shelter of Flint, finds her work there to be inspiring. “It’s very rewarding!” she exclaims. “The people I work with at Shelter of Flint really care. Some people are desperate and have nowhere to go and they live out in the cold. Our staff does everything they can to get them inside and keep them safe.”
The Coldest Night of the Year
Hosted by Shelter of Flint, “The Coldest Night of the Year” fundraiser is a family-friendly walk in support of local charities serving people experiencing hurt, hunger, and homelessness. This year, the walk will take place on February 24. Team up, fundraise, walk, and take a moment to look closer … because it’s cold out there. “It gives people some idea of what it’s like to be outside at night in the cold with nowhere to go,” says Hoffman. For more information, visit shelterofflint.org/events/
Send your check or money order to:
Shelter of Flint, 902 E. Sixth St. Flint, MI 48503
To donate by phone, please call 810.715.9201, ext. 306
For more information, visit shelterofflint.org/donate/
Your talents can help someone in need. For information about volunteer programs or to become a volunteer, please contact the volunteer coordinator at 810.239.5433 ext. 309, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the Volunteer Application at shelterofflint.org/volunteer/