by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
A connection created through social media posts on the homeless issue in Shiawassee County led to a meeting at Owosso’s O-Town Café between Shelly Ochodnicky and Tracie Baise just a couple weeks ago, and the result as of Monday, July 10 is that Homeless Angels of Lansing is expanding services into Owosso. Homeless Angels is a nonprofit organization, operated by Tim and Tracie Baise, oriented toward rebuilding and restoring “faith in humanity through innovative ideas, programs and events with the main goal of involving the community in real change for people that are homeless or at risk of homelessness.” More information is provided at www.homelessangels.org.
In a recent press release, Tim Baise, president, stated, “Owosso has a very serious need to help fight homelessness.” The Baise couple, who are involved with real estate, own the Woodbury building on Park Street and while renovating the back portion of the building for a showroom, they were inspired to offer up the property as a homeless shelter, instead. “This is a major step forward in our ability to expand services and provide a continuum of care for the homeless population,” Baise said in the release, “We want to create partnerships with social service agencies in Shiawassee County so we can all work together to meet the needs of the homeless in surrounding communities.”
Tracie Baise said they had come to recognize the original plans for the showroom were going to be better suited to their Williamston property and after attempting to rent the space, the couple felt that God was directing them to help the area homeless population – particularly after they were inspired by O’Town Café’s ongoing “pay-it-forward” meal and drink program and the passion of Shelly Ochodnicky, Samantha Ardelean (Shiawassee Hope), Lieutenant Jonathan Tamayo (Salvation Army) and numerous dedicated community members and groups who have so diligently worked to help.
The plans for the new shelter will have separate facilities for individual men and women, with a bunkroom to accommodate up to ten of each for a total of 20. Along with that, there will be two separate rooms for families. Showers, a laundry room, a licensed commercial kitchen, a food pantry and a diaper service will be included in the Park Street facility. Renovations will begin soon.
However, while renovations are ongoing, Homeless Angels is already planning a Mobile Free Street Store at 3 p.m., Sunday, July 29, followed by Dinner in the Park in front of the building in Owosso. O-Town Café will sponsor the dinner and the Shiawassee County Health Department will be there offering Hepatitis A information and vaccines. Footprints of Michigan, Inc. will be sponsoring shoes. Free haircuts will be available through Fiesta Salon. Free clothing, toys, household items and more will be available. This event is open to the homeless and anyone in need. If you or your organization or church are looking for a way to help, please contact Homeless Angels or Shiawassee Hope. Volunteers, donations and community support are needed.
A fundraising event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8 at the Korner Pub at 1017 W. Main St., Owosso. The event will include a silent auction of contributed items to help raise needed funds for the new shelter.
Volunteer plumbers, electricians, drywallers and other people involved with construction are also being sought out. The new homeless facility will need a sprinkler system, as well.
With the announcement of the new shelter having been made just a few days ago, many of these plans and needs are in flux. Most area people will recall the temporary warming center at the Salvation Army during the bitter cold last winter and hopefully recognize that the cold weather months aren’t so far off, so it is imperative to assist with the current needs of the homeless population and maintain the spirit of compassion and community found in Shiawassee County.