EDDIE BORST, 62, IS A CLIENT at the Owosso Homeless Angels campus and is a good example of someone not fitting any stereotype generally associated with homelessness. Eddie has been living at the shelter for six weeks. He became homeless following an apartment eviction through a sale-of-property. Eddie shared he was given a handwritten notice of eviction less than 24 hours before he was evicted.

   He then was living with a friend in Owosso, walking to Walgreens for his medications due to a bad liver/hepatitis C, when he located Homeless Angels. He knocked on the door and asked for shelter.

   Eddie is not an addict. He graduated from Ovid-Elsie schools and went on to get a bachelor’s degree. He lived in Nebraska for several years and was previously married. He is well read, enjoys his Bible, very communicative and a hard worker – though his liver issue costs him anywhere from $200 to $400 per month in prescriptions.

   Joining with Homeless Angels, he quickly started helping at the Owosso Senior Center, volunteering three or four hours every day. He is now interested in obtaining his food license through the U.S.D.A. Eventually, he would like to rent an apartment above Homeless Angels and then start providing “good, hot meals every night” for other clients.

   Eddie is shown with Pam Kowalski of the Owosso Senior Center on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Kowalski shared Eddie has been actively helping with the Hunger Network food pantry and helping in the kitchen.

   “He’s just a good guy,” Kowalski said. “He’s very helpful and a real asset.”

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)

 

   Owosso Homeless Angels Director Shelly Ochodnicky and case manager Dawn Ritter have shared a busy, but productive year, conquering one homeless case after another while contending with pandemic limitations.

   Ochodnicky and Ritter both emphasized part of the struggle in assisting the local homeless population is due to the stigma some individuals still have regarding homelessness. While educational efforts have helped in recent years, there are still people either denying homeless people live in the area or they have developed fears or prejudices about homelessness. What a certain population isn’t likely aware of is that the homeless population is every bit as diverse as any given population. The reasons for homelessness are numerous – and many homeless people often come from places of economic security and social stability.

   The one overlapping characteristic shared by Ochodnicky and Ritter for the majority of the homeless population is childhood trauma. Yet, even those traumatic events are diverse – each event unique to that individual.

   Ochodnicky explained the ins-and-outs of navigating the system to help homeless people connect to their identities. Most people, once committed to staying at Homeless Angels, have been disconnected from birth certificates, driver’s licenses and other items of identification. A mother with three children can anticipate paying $25 per birth certificate for her family of four that likely has no income – and that becomes even more complex if any of her children were born out-of-state.

   The process of obtaining social security cards is daunting, too. The social security office, like many government offices, has not been fully operational due to the ongoing pandemic. To obtain her social security card, one homeless individual had to mail in her driver’s license that she had only just received. Scans or screenshots are not permitted. The license had to be sent through the postal system, meaning the individual could not legally drive until the license was returned – and also meaning for this individual, the process of applying for housing had to start from scratch. Housing was a complete do-over for her.

   In discussing the holidays, Ritter and Ochodnicky emphasized that the Christmas season is particularly hard on their clients at the shelter. Many of them are detached from family and friends and there are a multitude of stressors involved in trying to enjoy some holiday frivolity – even just for a momentary escape.

   Ochodnicky is currently taking in donations to create gift bags for adult men and women and is asking for nice, personal hygiene items, socks, small puzzle books or other portable items. Gift cards for McDonald’s or other local eateries are always appreciated, along with NCG movie cards. More volunteers are always needed, too.

   When dealing with addicts, Homeless Angels has developed relationships with Recovery Pathways and nearby rehab operations permitting them to now have an addict in rehab usually in a 24-hour period. Since June, the shelter has assisted with 26 rehabilitations. Thanks to the donated van from First Church of Christ and a dedicated volunteer, transportation is usually not an issue.

   The “jobs” Ochodnicky, Ritter and others at Homeless Angels attend to regularly are as diverse as the homeless people they help. Homeless Angels staff have to address the stigma of homelessness, help with the hurdles of obtaining identification/records during the pandemic, assist with rehabilitation efforts if required, work with the courts in some cases, schedule therapy and other appointments, help with medical needs (including cancer), organize wound care, facilitate Zoom meetings, schedule transportation, help apply for needed benefits/assistance and with housing and employment – and the list goes on.

   Ochodnicky offered she is grateful for the continued community support, including donations from Cupcakes & Kisses, Itsa Deli Thing, Mancino’s, Fosters Coffee and many other local restaurants and businesses.

    The Owosso Homeless Angels campus is located on N. Park Street in downtown Owosso. The shelter celebrated its second anniversary in October. Since opening, 60 people have found permanent housing.

   For more on homeless angels, visit homelessangels.org.

Owosso Homeless Angels Addresses Stigma of Homelessness and Pandemic Hurdles was last modified: December 7th, 2021 by Karen Elford