OWOSSO HOMELESS ANGELS DIRECTOR Shelly Ochodnicky is shown in what will become the commercial kitchen at the Park Street shelter. A commercial kitchen is required for serving meals by law.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
The Owosso Homeless Angels campus on Park Street opened on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019 and has been going strong since the start, even during the early months of quarantine. Director Shelly Ochodnicky gave a tour of the shelter on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 21 and discussed recent updates. Homeless Angels is still operating at 50-percent capacity, as was mandated under pandemic protocols.
Ochodnicky shared that the shelter currently is housing a Cuban family of three, including a mom and two small children. The mother, who does have residency, lived in Miami for several years after coming to the United States when she was 15. She only speaks Spanish, which was not a barrier in multi-lingual Miami, but has proven an issue upon arriving in mid-Michigan. She had come to Michigan with her small children to stay with a friend, believing she would make a fresh start for herself and her family, but her plans did not work out and she found herself needing help – which is where Homeless Angels stepped in. Ochodnicky has been working with this family, wishing to remain in Michigan, connecting them to resources including English classes for the mother twice a week and elementary school for the 6-year-old son.
Ochodnicky shared how enthusiastic and resilient the boy is – fascinated with his new life in Michigan, eager for the first snow. He has never seen snow, though, and is unsure about the current cold. In typical 6-year-old kid fashion, he is looking forward to Halloween. Ochodnicky said that carving pumpkins, cider and donuts are planned for clients.
Ochodnicky explained that one change the nonprofit has witnessed over the summer and into autumn is a large increase in the transient homeless population. The transient fluctuation has been observed by a few, local nonprofit groups, though the exact reason has not been identified.
“I’m not certain how long we’re going to remain at half-capacity,” shared Ochodnicky about the coming winter. “We will likely have to reconsider that because we do not want to see people out in the cold. Everybody here has been healthy. It’s just hard to say. We’re trying to follow CDC guidelines, obviously, but winter is winter here in Michigan, and never say never. We might have to get creative.”
Some impressive first-year stats from Homeless Angels include serving a total of 57 adults, 14 children and seeing 31 persons find housing. The shelter has provided 3,365 nights to clients. “Some are here a few months, some are here much longer,” Ochodnicky said. “We meet them where they are at and try to figure out what that means for that person … helping others make those steps in the right direction.”
What are some current needs? Volunteers. The next volunteer training session will be Saturday, Nov. 7 at 9 a.m., factoring in that the holidays are coming so the shelter needs more help with drop offs, etc. Monetary donations are appreciated, as well, along with Meijer and Kroger gift cards for last minute needs that come up. The commercial kitchen is currently under construction, so items for the kitchen will soon need to be purchased.
Minus a kitchen, Memorial Healthcare contributes hot meals three days per week, two days a week meals are delivered from Cupcakes and Kisses through Covenant Eyes, and Mancino’s delivers on Saturdays. Sundays are for leftovers. Ochodnicky who is very appreciative of the community support, is looking forward to having the kitchen finalized, though.
To donate to Homeless Angels online visit www.homelessangels.org.