ChristNet Services Gives the Homeless a Hand Up
January 10, 2019
Steve held a good job working as a roofer until one day in 2016 he fell off one while working and was injured. The ensuing health issues and financial crunch led to him and his family losing their home. It was an unfortunate turn of events for Steve, who is in his 50s and declined to give his last name. Now homeless, the family sought the help of ChristNet Services, based in Taylor.
ChristNet Services had its origins in 1992, when a group of Taylor churches began addressing the needs for emergency food and housing in the city. A pilot program was launched in January 1993, in which eight Taylor churches agreed to house homeless guests overnight for one week straight, rotating as hosts. The initial program ran through February and the Nighttime Shelter Program was born.
In the years since, more than 30 churches have joined the program, involving more than a dozen cities in the downriver area. Guests register at the ChristNet Services main office in Taylor. Once registered, guests are ensured a spot for a warm, dry place to sleep. The pick-up spot is the main office and the ministry's vans transport guests to the host church for the evening. ChristNet's Executive Director, Debbie Petri, says initially, guests secured an overnight stay for 30 days. During this time they could spend the day either at work or securing employment, housing, or other aid without the worry of wondering where they would spend the night. Guests are now given 90 days to stay, as Petri says it was soon evident 30 days was not always enough time to get back on their feet.
After arriving at the host church, guests are served a hot dinner. The remainder of the evening is filled with other activities such as board games, television or a movie. Depending on the host church, showers may be available, as well as toiletry items. In the morning, breakfast is served and each guest is provided a bag lunch, and then are transported back to ChristNet's main office, where they are free to get on with their day. As long as they are back by 6 p.m., they are transported once again to the host church for the night.
Each church hosts the homeless guests for one week, from Sunday night through the following Sunday morning, then another church takes over. The program can accommodate up to 28 guests on any given night. Securing a spot can be very competitive. The guests use light mattresses and bedding which is moved weekly from church to church. The overnight program's season runs from mid-October through the end of May each year, the coldest part of the year when no one should have to sleep outside. "One thing with it being a rotating shelter, is that it's not on one community to help--it's multiple communities," says Petri.
In 2006, ChristNet experimented with a Daytime Program which was very successful. The Daytime Program runs year round and is located at the ministry's main office in Taylor. The program serves as a link to homeless and needy men and women in the downriver area to resources which can help them find affordable housing, employment, or other things which make life easier, such as a social security card or state ID. In addition, a hot lunch is served each day at 11:30, and a clothing closet is available at no cost. One need not be registered in the Nighttime Shelter Program in order to partake of the benefits of the Daytime Program. "They give you an option to where you can help yourself, and they'll help you help yourself," says Steve. "It encourages me to keep trying to do the best I can."
The guests of ChristNet are not always what one thinks of when they think of a homeless person. "Most of the guests, if you saw them on the street, you wouldn't know they were homeless," says Petri. "They're clean and presentable, they're just like you and I. They've just fallen on hard times."
So far this season, ChristNet has served 102 individual guests through January 1. Last season, host churches provided 18,500 meals. Petri says the community is welcome to come by and see what the program is all about. "I believe I am blessed more by the guests than by what we do for them," she says.
Donations and volunteers are welcome. ChristNet Services is located in the lower level of Taylor Church of the Nazarene, 24356 Eureka Road in Taylor. For more information, call 734-287-8890 or go to http://www.christnetservices.org.