By: Rev. Lew Stier
This is the foundational principle of my vision for taking our Human Care Ministry to the next level. In the past year I have received so many requests for financial assistance and for a multitude of reasons. I have helped in many of the situations. We started with an ALMS fund balance in January of $21,000.00. The balance as of October 31, 2017 was at $14,800.00.
This year we have given out $6200.00 to help with car repairs, motel stays, overdue utility bills, security deposits, and bus tickets among other things. I know these things are needed -- people have a hard time meeting every financial obligation. Trinity has made a name for itself in the community as the "Church that helps people." I am amazed at the number of calls for financial help. There are times when I have felt like we are the Christian ATM for the area.
When I talk about it to other people, some tell me to just say, "We don't have the money to help right now," or just say, "Sorry I cannot help at this time." There are so many needs, and it is hard not to meet some of them when we have the funds designated to do so. On one hand as a pastor I would be lying if I did so. On the other hand I struggle with how "healthy" it is for our ministry to be so broad in scope in how we help financially.
I am convinced God is calling us to help those who are in need -- and He is blessing us with the means to do so. I also believe we are called to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to the Human Care Ministry so we are able to benefit as many as possible. This does not mean we need to "ration" our help every month, but it does mean we need to have a plan in place to ensure what we do is the most effective and helps in the best way.
I would like to narrow that focus down to primarily helping in housing situations. I would like to see our ministry become a center for the Northern Macomb County area partnering with the government agencies dealing in housing assistance.
From what I can tell so far as I have researched, the agencies such as the Macomb County Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) and Community Housing Network (CHN) to name two, are only helping with rent assistance. They do facilitate between Section 8 housing landlords and tenants.
There are many requirements for prospective tenants to meet. DHS mainly helps if the tenant is in the eviction process. The Michigan State Emergence Relief Fund (SER) can only help if the tenant's rent and utility costs added together total 75% or more of their monthly income. Many people are just slightly over the income maximum for help and fall behind in their rent or utility bills because they have no way to plan for unexpected expenditures.
So many people we may term as "homeless" do find places to stay on a temporary basis -- they do move from place to place. The people I talk to most are receiving some sort of government assistance or Social Security Disability (SSI). They may be able to qualify for Section 8 housing and be granted a reduced rent payment in line with what they receive.
In these situations people cannot come up with the first month's rent, security deposit, and last month's rent at the same time as required. The monthly rent payment after they get in is doable, but they cannot gather enough funds to make the deal.
In order to help move the HOMELESS toward SUSTAINABLE housing, I believe our Ministry can be a resource for helping pay towards the security deposit/last month rent obstacle. In order to help people KEEP their home I believe our ministry can be a resource for helping pay overdue rent and utility bills to avoid the eviction proceedings.
This is how I vision our Human Care Ministry moving to the next level. I know it will take a lot of planning and effort, but I am willing to be the leader for this effort. Judging from the response I received after casting this vision in the Sunday Sanctuary services, and Pastor Justin casting it out to the Journey services, we have people who see this as a very good possibility.
I am proposing putting together a "Task Force" of Trinity members who are willing to begin talking with me and moving forward with planning and strategies. If we at Trinity can establish a working plan for us to start with, then I would like the Christian churches in our community to have a chance to partner with us working together for God's Kingdom.