The South Oakland Citizens for the Homeless Welcome Inn Day Center is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays from Dec. 17 to March 15.

The South Oakland Citizens for the Homeless Welcome Inn Day Center is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays from Dec. 17 to March 15.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Local day shelter, churches provide haven for homeless during winter

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 21, 2018

 Ben Ogden,  executive director of the Welcome Inn Day Center, speaks with Matthew Smith about receiving a replacement  ID Dec. 20.

Ben Ogden, executive director of the Welcome Inn Day Center, speaks with Matthew Smith about receiving a replacement ID Dec. 20.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Case worker Lori Henson works with a guest at the Welcome Inn Day Center, located in Covenant Presbyterian Church in Southfield, Dec. 20.

Case worker Lori Henson works with a guest at the Welcome Inn Day Center, located in Covenant Presbyterian Church in Southfield, Dec. 20.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ROYAL OAK — On Dec. 17, the South Oakland Citizens for the Homeless daytime and overnight shelter program officially kicked off. It will run through March 15.

The program aims to provide refuge, clothing, meals, showers and services to people who are chronically homeless or without utilities during the cold winter months.

The Welcome Inn Day Center for the Homeless is located at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 21575 W. 10 Mile Road, east of Lahser Road, in Southfield. It is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The overnight shelters are open seven days a week and rotate between six churches.

Emmanuel Bethel Church, 4000 Normandy Road in Royal Oak, will host Dec. 17-30; Renaissance Vineyard Church, 1841 Pinecrest Drive in Ferndale, will host Dec. 30-Jan. 6; St. Mary Catholic Church, 730 S. Lafayette Ave. in Royal Oak, will host Jan. 6-20; Starr Presbyterian Church, 1717 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak, will host Jan. 20-27; Genesis the Church, 309 N. Main St. in Royal Oak, will host Jan. 27-Feb. 10; and Berkley Community Church, 2855 Wiltshire Road in Berkley, will host Feb. 10-23.

Ben Ogden, executive director of the Welcome Inn, said the overnight emergency center program launched in the late 1990s as a small system of approximately six or seven churches.

He said St. Mary Catholic Church in Royal Oak initiated the emergency overnight shelter program as a response to two homeless men who suffered from alcoholism and froze to death outside. 

“What happens is, you get all types of people who flock there — people in need, who are escaping things, people that drift from all different places,” he said. “St. Mary’s has an elementary, and for them to operate the shelter, they had to kick everybody out into the streets by 7 a.m.”

He said the response from the community to the exodus of homeless leaving the church, which is located on a residential street, was overwhelmingly negative, which led to the formation of the day shelter in 2003 to give them a place to go.

The day shelter generally draws around 50-60 people per day, and the overnight shelters generally attract approximately 100 or so per night, although the number is largely dependent on the weather.

“We bus all of our guests from their location, either to us or we take them to the transit center in Royal Oak, should they want to go somewhere else,” Ogden said. “We’re open 12 hours a day, and we serve three meals a day.”

Guests are attended by on-site service providers, including the Community Housing Network, veterans services, and triage nurses from the Oakland County Health Department, who treat frostbite and other ailments. The bus also offers transportation to showers three times a week and a laundromat twice a week, Ogden said.

Both the day and night shelters are low-barrier, meaning they accept almost everybody, as long as they are 18 or older, while higher-level shelters are stern about rules, he said.

“We prepare them to meet with higher-level places that can help them out,” Ogden said. “Low-barrier includes high levels of aggression and a high score of chemical abuse.”

He said the Welcome Inn is always accepting donations of clothing because wet clothes become cold and dangerous, and the homeless do not have access to dryers. The most-needed clothing items are undergarments for both genders and size large men’s clothing, he said.

Volunteers are also always in demand for meal-serving shifts, and monetary donations help run the shelter, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Last year, Ogden said, the Welcome Inn served 10,000 meals; helped 286 people, with a daily cost of approximately $35 per person; and operated at a cost below $500,000.

Deb Maltz, the volunteer coordinator for the night shelter at Renaissance Vineyard Church in Ferndale, has been working with overnight shelter programs for more than eight years.

“I think it’s a great program,” she said. “It gives the homeless people of the community a place to go so they’re not freezing out on the street. The last thing we want is for anybody to freeze to death.”

She said the church receives a great showing of support, not only from church members, but also from the community — especially from people who sign up to make dinners or serve breakfast in the morning.

“I don’t have to do this. I want to do it. I want to give back, and I want to make sure I’m loving on other people,” she said. “I have a place to live, clothes on my back and food on my table, and I’m giving out of the overflow of what I have.”

Maltz said the guests at Renaissance Vineyard Church have expressed appreciation for the respectful and kind way they are treated.

“We like seeing them every year, although every year, our hope is that they find a place to live,” she said. “There’s always new faces, but a lot of the people that we see every year are the same.”

For more information, call the Welcome Inn at (248) 289-0213 or visit www.sochwi.org.

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