At a time when the entire state is under such a severe financial crunch even the most basic of city services are often deemed to be in peril, a Detroit not-for-profit agency is paving the way for homeless dads to remain under the same roof with their children as they desperately strive to regain their footing.
Largely due to a $200,000 grant from the Harry B. and Leona M. Helmsley Charitable Trust of New York, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) has devised a first-of-its-kind state program that provides destitute fathers the kind of temporary shelter ultimately needed to retain custody of their children.
With funds provided by the grant, the agency has secured access to at least ten apartments it houses father and son families in until such time as the parent is stable enough to also take further advantage of other program resources and services such as training and counseling likewise designed to aide them in any job search.
The program also works with homeless mothers with older boys and, over the course of the next five years, top officials are hoping to service as many as 250 similar clients. All of the units provided come with separate and secure spaces, including private sleeping and bathing areas.
“They really, really, have good hearts around here,” said Anthony Muhammad, who along with his nine-year-old son, Rasheed, are two of the most fortunate recipients of the program’s altruism. “I just didn’t want to be without him, period. Period,” said Anthony.
Added a beaming Rasheed of the first private quarters he has enjoyed in well over a year: “It’s my own and I don’t have to share. A lot of things, bad things have happened in my life.”
DRMM President Dr. Chad Audi insists it's families just like the Muhammad’s the agency had in mind when it put forth its mission statement more than a century ago promising to focus on “rebuilding lives one at a time, with the help of partners, donors, volunteers and community groups.
“This is a place where people can come in, catch their breath basically,” said Audi. “You can get support services; get skills if the father needs a job. You can get a place where you don’t have to worry about your children.”
Audi adds clients will be allowed to remain in housing units for as long as two-years and at the time of their departure he expects as many as 45 percent of all clients to have all their basic health needs stabilized and as many as 75 percent of them to be on course toward stable, permanent housing.
Typically male-headed households and older homeless boys find it difficult to find accommodations in shelters and other emergency housing venues which, more often than not, are designed with female patrons in mind. Far too often, according to Audi and other DRMM officials, the end result is families that might otherwise remain intact being forced to split up.
“We pride ourselves in aiding families in staying together,” said Audi. “These are tough times all over, especially in Detroit.”
Indeed, horror stories related to Detroit’s cash-strapped woes have dogged much of the news in recent times, including siren-like warnings the entire city was in danger of running out of money by June 15, if Mayor Dave Bing didn’t sign a consent agreement as he ultimately did pertaining to how certain state and city revenues are divided and doled out as well as calling for the creation of several new statewide positions put in place for the sole purpose of tackling such issues.
“If our city runs out of money there is no bigger crisis facing our city,” said Bing, also a former NBA who only took over as mayor in 2009. “It is an emergency. It is a crisis and we’ve been in a crisis for a long time. This just ups the ante more than anything else.”
Just two months ago, the city was faced with the dim prospect of having to turn off at least half its 88,000 street lamps in a desperate attempt to save as much as $10 million annually and began to dig itself out of a financial hole that now finds the city overwrought with a $265 million deficit and strapped with as much as $12 billion in long-term debt.
In addition, the city has also been besieged by a shrinking population plaque, which has seen the citizenry of what was once the nation’s fourth largest city dip to just 714,000 people according to recent census figures, a dip of nearly a quarter of its populous.
“Simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken,” said Bing. “That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. I am your mayor, and I want to continue to lead the city back.
“I’ve been in Detroit 46-years,” he added. “I’ve been in the neighborhoods; I’ve had businesses, hired people… helped employ a lot of families. I don’t worry about my legacy, but I think those are the things that people will remember me for.”
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.