Kalamazoo Churches Building Hope for Women and Children’s Shelter

Approximately 350 people without homes seek shelter at the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gospel Mission every night. Nearly 200 of them are women and children. But over the past 12 years, much of the mission’s women and children’s shelter has become unsafe and damaged beyond repair. Christian Reformed congregations are joining the effort to change that.

“There is a lot of damage, water leakage, and black mold to the ceiling and floors,” said Tammy Clubb, director of development at the mission. In addition, the building has no elevator. At night, women and children cram into the first floor and the separate family shelter.

The mission has asked churches to rally their members around its Building Hope campaign to build a new women and children’s shelter.

A Building Hope promotional video shared on Facebook inspired 7-year-old Jamin Mills of Westwood CRC to sell art to benefit the campaign. His enthusiasm quickly spread to the rest of the Westwood congregation.

“We wanted to be part of a grassroots effort to support [people who are] homeless in the best way,” said Cheri Dykstra, family life coordinator at Westwood. “The fact that this touched the heart of this small boy in our church is exactly what we’re hoping to produce in the hearts of the children of our congregation: the desire and passion to bring about change in God’s kingdom.”

The mission accepts and serves anyone regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. Though it provides shelter and resources to 84 percent of the population that is homeless in Kalamazoo, it receives none of the $1.8 million in federal funds allocated to alleviate homeless in Kalamazoo County.

“If we take that money, they can tell us how to spend it and what to do and what to say,” Clubb said, explaining that the mission could no longer operate on a foundation of faith, which has been the cornerstone of the organization since its founding in 1933.

Church partnerships play an important role. At Westwood, every family was invited to take home a building block bank. “We challenged the congregation to set family goals,” said Dykstra. “We give them a monthly tangible application, like pledging a certain amount per pillow or blanket in their house.” During the first month, Westwood raised $2,000.

Westwood also plans to raise funds by selling art created by kids in the congregation. Other churches are taking part as well. Second CRC held a classic car show to benefit the campaign. This Advent season, Third CRC is participating in the Advent Conspiracy, a challenge to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all. Their giving focus is the Building Hope campaign; a special collection will be held on December 18.

To date, the mission has raised $2 million of the nearly $8 million budget.

About the Author

Lori Dykstra is a freelance writer.

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