Leaders for Homeless: City Has Wanted Poor Out Of Sight
Two of Battle Creek's leaders in the fight to help the homeless are preparing for a forum Tuesday evening meant to explore the notion that more needs to be done in that effort. Specifically, the discussion is meant to uncover whether or not another homeless shelter is needed in Battle Creek.
The forum is set for 7-9pm Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at First Congregational Church, 145 Capital Avenue NE in Battle Creek.
The discussion is spearheaded by Pastor Bill Stein, who operates the God's Kitchen food pantry in Battle Creek. Stein contends there are 1200 homeless individuals who sleep outside in the elements nightly, which is evidence that there is not enough.
"When you have ten homeless camps in the city...and the City of Battle Creek owns hundreds of homes received through grants from HUD and MSHDA...the city should be using those resources [to end homelessness] rather than allowing those homes to deteriorate," Stein told The Richard Piet Show on WBCK.
Elaine Hunsicker, executive director of The Haven of Rest Ministries - which operates the Battle Creek shelter - doesn't agree that there are 1200 homeless now, but does agree help is needed.
"We just completed the local homeless count, completed by the homeless coalition," Hunsicker said, "We didn't find 1200 homeless people - we found 254, I believe. Over the course of a year...end of the year statistics [showed] last year about 1200-1500 [homeless]." Hunsicker said of those 254, about 150 stay at The Haven shelter.
Having said that, Hunsicker agrees with Stein there is a disconnect between the homeless population and its access to services.
"Battle Creek is the only city I'm aware of...that does not do anything to support social services. A portion of Community Development Block Grant funds...was previously allocated to provide for social services - they took that away," Hunsicker said. "The city still gets the same cut...it's an embarrassment that our city does nothing to promote or support social services for our most at risk, needy citizens."
Stein alleges the City of Battle Creek and Battle Creek Unlimited have sought to close the God's Kitchen facility he oversees "because they don't want a soup kitchen downtown. I've been told that by Battle Creek Unlimited and city officials...it interferes with their economic development revitalization efforts downtown," Stein said. "They want the poor to be sight unseen, and it's the same situation with the homeless."
Asked if she agrees with that perception, Hunsicker said "I don't know if the current administration has that mindset - we have seen it in the past."
Mayor Deb Owens and Vice-Mayor Lynn Ward Gray did not respond to an invitation to participate in the radio interview.
Hear the entire interview by clicking the player below.