The 22 foam mattresses are spread across a large room on the ground floor of Ann Arbor (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church, offering a peaceful night’s rest for men who otherwise wouldn’t have a place to sleep.
Volunteers pack up foam mattresses provided by Washtenaw County's rotating shelter program.
Over the previous four months, the men have found temporary homes in 23 area houses of worship. It is part of a rotating shelter program that links a county-wide program with the faith community to reach an ever-growing community of people who are homeless.
That community in Washtenaw County fluctuates each year between 2,000 and 3,000 residents. A lack of affordable housing around Ann Arbor and a shortage of state funding for the county’s shelter program only makes matters worse.
That’s where the rotating shelter program has been a welcome relief, opening up churches such as Ann Arbor CRC, which has participated in the program for the past 30 years.
“It’s humbling,” said church member Todd Redder, who has been active with the program for the past nine years. “You come in, maybe you’re worried about a presentation you have at work the next day, and these men come in and they’re just glad to have a place to sleep.”
Redder depends on about 60 church members to fill 100 slots during the week the shelter is housed at Ann Arbor CRC. Volunteers provide transportation and food for the men as well as split overnight shifts, meeting the needs of those calling the church home for the week.
During the week, volunteers interact with clients, helping them better understand the plight the people who lack homes face—especially during cold winter months.
The rotating shelter program runs between early November and the final week of March.
“What I like about it is that it’s social justice in action,” said Shoshana Mandel, one of the program’s co-coordinators. “It’s about as active as you can get. It’s shelter but it’s so much more than that. The warmth is almost palpable.”