Volume 14, Number 2, November-December 2010
16 Months of Ministry to the Homeless
by Norman Edwards
PABC began to open its doors to homeless people in June of 2010. From that time, till the time of this writing (September 23, 2011), it has helped 83 homeless people, 63 adults and 20 children. Currently, 11 homeless people are living at PABC, with our highest number being 14.
A total of 3641 bed-nights provided. (A bed-night equals the number of people that stay multiplied by the number of nights each stays.) If relief or government agencies would have had to place these people in hotels at about $50 per night, the cost would have been $182,050! Yet PABC is presently operating with less than $30,000 per year of expenses.
Some whom we have spent an hour or more approving for PABC actually solve their problems before they stay a night here. When they know they have a place to stay “tonight”, it allows them to focus on longer term solutions. Others stay a few nights, a few weeks or even several months. Most are single men, but there have also been single women and families varying in size from two to eight. Few come due to a total lack of planning, but most thought they had some kind of housing arrangements, but they fell apart with little warning.
Some who come to PABC have suffered greatly in the present economy and have simply run out of resources. Most have come from a difficult past where they were not loved or well cared-for by parents. Some have come from jail or prison and are doing a great job of trying to get a new start in life.
Others show little appreciation for what we are providing. Yet others feign appreciation continually, and are highly skilled at telling whatever story they think is necessary to get them what they want. Some have committed crimes while living here. We have worked with law enforcement and they have been successfully prosecuted. We do not want to quietly send them away so they can repeat the same crimes elsewhere.
Government Funding Cuts Creating More Need
Most of the people who come are recommended by government agencies. PABC is a member of the Thumb Area Continuum of Care, an umbrella organization that meets every other month to coordinate the activities of public and private entities that help homeless and struggling people (See: http://tinyurl.com/thumbcc and http://tinyurl.com/thumbcc2) There are no other shelters in Huron County, or the adjoining Sanilac and Tuscola counties, that will take almost anyone on an immediate basis. The fastest government re-housing programs take days to weeks to provide a place to stay. Not everyone qualifies for them. Long term programs now have waiting lists lasting years. If people have to go to the other shelters 80 miles away from here, it is nearly impossible for them to pursue ongoing job leads, get help from neighbors, keep their children in the same school, etc.
The amount of work we will have to do is likely to increase as more government programs are running out of money. On September 6, 2011, House Bill 4409, became law, limiting cash assistance (Family Independence Program) recipients to a maximum of four years. The bill became effective October 1, 2011, and approximately 12,600 individuals or families will stop receiving an average of $511 per month. Many of the recipients were using that money to pay their rent—so they will need new housing solutions.
Living Among Them
The main problem with helping these 12,600 is the same problem that PABC faces every day: Who really needs help and who could get along with out help, but finds it easier to get on a program. Governments and most other agencies have to decide this via a series of forms and the ability to check financial and government records. These things have their place, but they are not the same as caring Christians living among the people they are trying to help. It is much more difficult for them to keep secrets. There habits and practices are known.
It is PABC's goal to help each person learn to help themselves and be as self-sufficient as possible. This is taught both from the aspect of not relying on government programs that may lose funding, and also from the Golden Rule aspect: If you do not want to support somebody else with your work, why should somebody else support you? PABC uses biblical principles on how to help the poor, teaching them to do as much for themselves as they can—even if it is a lot of work. PABC Guests prepare their own food, help to grow some of their food, clean the areas they use, recycle their own trash, work whatever odd jobs are available, pay their own utilities to the extent possible, etc.
Striving for Self-Sufficiency
PABC does not accept any government funds, as it would not be able to continue with its biblical approach, and might well end up in the same difficulty as other government-supported programs which must be cut to balance budgets after too many years of deficit spending. Ultimately, PABC strives to reach a level of self-sufficiency where it will not need any outside assistance, but be self sufficient from the work of those living on its campus. It would be good for us and a good example to those we help. We are not there yet! PABC certainly welcomes those who want to help with its programs or simply want to tour the campus.
Bible Teaching by Word and Deed
We have one required meeting per week where we deal with issues of all those resident here, and teach a basic Bible lesson. When issues come up in regard to how to deal with each other, jobs, places to live, government programs, we try to represent a godly perspective. We pray with them as well as seeking physical solutions to their problems Even when we are fairly sure that one of our Guests has done something wrong here, we try to be careful to hear their side of the story and get the facts—we have occasionally had to apologize. The reaction of the PABC guests seems to be similar to the reaction to the New Testament ministry:
1. Most everyone likes what we provide. (The apostles provided healing, we provide housing).
2. A few think we should provide more. (Some wanted more free food from Christ—John 6:26-29, others sought various favors—Matt 20:21; Luke 23:29).
3. Some want to attend our daily Bible studies or Sabbath services and want to understand the Bible better.
4. Thus far, one has been baptized.
5. Some leave us thankful, some leave angry.
6. Others are interested in helping our ministry, attending our services and understanding our biblical message because they see our service to people in need.
You may contact us at Port Austin Bible Campus, 8180 Port Drive, Port Austin, Michigan 48467; 989-738-774; PABC@PortAustin.net. &
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