Homeless Menders

Menders is mentioned in the title, what is Menders?

Menders is a new mission within the homeless service community that intends to make a real difference for the homeless by providing crisis intervention, jobs, training, homes, and support in a unique way that goes far beyond just shelter and food.   Menders is a non-denominational service organization working closely with local religious ministries and secular agencies for support and guidance.  Menders has grown out of Macland Presbyterian Church (MPC) of Powder Springs Georgia, but believes that all faiths recognize a duty to help the homeless and poor and therefore welcomes all who desire to help. 

To be certain you understand, as an elder at MPC and one of the founding families, I’m coming at Menders from a Christian perspective and the MPC chapter will be supportave of the Christian faith, but open to all who wish to help.   I fully realize that Christians do not have a patent on caring, nor on giving, nor on compassion, nor on a commitment from our faith to serve the needy and the homeless.   So I’ve decided to keep Menders open to chapters from all faiths.   That means that if a synagogue or a mosque or any one of the many other denominations of the Christian faith, or a purely secular group comes along that wants to help, they will be fully welcomed.    The homeless and the needy need all the help they can get.  

What is the mission of Menders?

Menders’ mission is based on the belief that we are expected to feed and shelter the poor and homeless and so desire to do so in a way that resolves the problem, not just salve over it.   Menders belives that traditional shelter and food programs do not offer a way out of homelessness and often just perpetuate it. 

The mission therefore is to make a difference in reducing homelessness by practicing active homelessness prevention through crisis intervention and counseling within the spirit of a loving community and, for those already homeless, to actively develop a program to provide jobs and real homes for as many as possible through renovation of buildings and older homes for their exclusive use.  The primary goal is that no one is required to rough sleep or go hungry, the secondary goal is to remove the homeless from homelessness into a productive lifestyle in safe sturdy housing.

The elements of the Menders program include:

    •         Menders Rehab for the Homeless (the cornerstone project of Menders)   

    •         Active homeless prevention through crisis intervention (absolutely critical)

    •         Help Hotline (who do you call?)

    •         No Rough Sleeping (bridges are not bedrooms) 

    •         Spiritual Guidance (keeping commandments)

    •         Counseling (a must have)

    •         Food Depots and Diners (no one should ever go hungry)

    •         Shelters (will always be needed)

The role of Menders is explained for each of these below.  The reader must recognize that established Menders Partners necessarily perform many of these elements, as Menders does not wish to duplicate established organizations.   I’ve identified Menders Partners with (MP) meaning another agency will be enlisted to partner with Menders to perform the function.

√       Rehab for the Homeless Program (MENDERS). This is the cornerstone project of Menders.  Menders provides a program for the rehabilitation of houses and other buildings for the use of the homeless.   Homes that are in disrepair, or even on the verge of condemnation, are purchased or leased for the purpose of providing work and shelter for people recruited out of shelters and among the rough sleeping homeless. These houses are sometimes purchased through condemned property sales in conjunction with local governments, or purchased or leased from property owners that, for one reason or another, have failed to maintain the property.

Every city has houses that have fallen into disrepair to the extent that they are eyesores or even a danger in the community.   Some of these can be salvaged, but only with much labor and cost beyond the ability of the current owner.   Menders evaluates and acquires rights to select houses, then recruits labor from the homeless utilizing recommendations from shelters and pay them full wages, allows them to live in the houses (free, or for a token rent from their wages) while they work on them, in the hopes that many will take the opportunity to bootstrap themselves to a point where they can feel enabled to work their way back into the mainstream employed.  

Some homes are in such a state of disrepair that they cannot be safely lived in.  Menders  puts up homeless in liveable and safe homes only.  However, work crews from these liveable homes are utilized to bring up nearby condemned houses to a safe and sturdy condition with certificates of occupancy, and then Menders enlists other homeless to live there and bring the homes up to salable condition.

Menders uses volunteer Site Project Managers (SPM) and select Crew Leaders (CL) from the Menders pool of volunteers in charge of each project.  Eventually, some of the former homeless become crew leaders or even SPMs.  Menders solicits volunteers from the community through churches and other organizations to work alongside on these projects in a teaching, encouragement, and spiritual guidance mode in addition to helping in the mending of a house.   Many of these are trained SPM and CLs from Habitat for Humanity sponsor organizations.

There are many skilled tradesmen within the homeless community that can do carpentry, plumbing, and other repairs that will do the bulk of the work.  However, whatever a homeless person can contribute, whether it is just picking up around the neighborhood, or painting the fence is sufficient for selection, in the belief that training, counseling, and spiritual encouragement will prevail on them to grow into self-sufficiency.    Menders insists that everyone take better care of the grounds than any other property on the street so that the neighbors will be pleased that they are there.   Menders workers do not admit to being homeless and report that they work for Menders.  Each project is kept very low profile and closely monitored as there are often neighbors that will not want them there.

Menders provides the funding to buy or lease houses at nominal costs due to their deteriorated conditions, pay the live-in workers (no longer jobless and no longer homeless), plus find donations of materials, tools and special expertise, then bring the houses up to code and into marketable condition.  Menders will eventually sell or sublet the houses and use the proceeds to buy or lease more properties, maintaining a non-profit status at all times.   Those that can be placed in other jobs will receive aid for apartments (MP) of their own, and others moved into the next house to be rebuilt

Where we can’t buy a property, we approach rental property owners with “a proposal that they can’t refuse.”   Some absentee owners are faced with an overwhelming list of housing violations that are too numerous and too costly to fix, so the owner is on the verge of losing the property to condemnation.  Menders approach the owner with a proposal that Menders will renovate and maintain it, even possibly pay the back taxes, in return for a rent free lease for a fixed number of years, or with a provision for repayment based on an increased sales price or increase in appraisal value.  The number of years leased would be determined by the estimated cost of repair.

Menders work with housing code enforcement authorities to make emergency rehabilitation measures for safe habitation (including water, heat and power)  necessary to gain a certificate of occupancy (CO).  Until the CO is received, the Mender’s workers will live elsewhere.

Menders asks various crafts to volunteer for those tasks where the workers do not have the skills and certificates needed for specialized or dangerous work (such as gas plumbing, electrical, or roofing on steeply pitched roofs.

√       Active Homeless Prevention through Crisis intervention (MP).  Homeless prevention by crisis intervention is not only compassionate, but also crucial to reducing the numbers of homeless.   It can be the most economical way to achieve the overall goal.   If we can prevent any one new homeless situation from developing, we can likely keep individuals employed and entire families off of welfare and out of shelters.  

Menders believes that a single act of intervention that prevents an eviction and gives the family a chance to get over an illness, a temporary job loss situation, or other disaster that may have precipitated the situation, can prevent months of extreme hardship leading to possible deadly illness, family breakup, lost schooling, welfare, and numerous other problems and hardships that might have otherwise led to homelessness.

There are many families living on the edge of poverty where loss of a home or apartment, for lack of a single rent payment that can’t be caught up, can lead to an ever downward spiral that is totally unnecessary.   Menders recognizes that crisis intervention should be for real crisis situations, not long term care, and will support crisis intervention by promoting Help Hotlines: 

√       Help Hotline (MP).  Who do you call?  Many in crisis situations do not belong to a church and have no idea where they can get help.   In recognition of the need of a dedicated phone number in each area that anyone can call 24 hours a day, Menders will enlist agencies that already perform the function or have standby operators that will answer hot-line calls from people in crisis situations.   These operators will provide referral service to organizations in their community that can provide the type of intervention aid needed.   The operators will also provide referrals to area churches, synagogues, and charitable agencies.  They do not make decisions as to worthiness, nor do they provide counseling.   Every call gets referred (preferably transferred) somewhere.  In many areas of the United States, the referral agency will be a 211 operator.

Agencies working with Menders are encouraged to make additional referrals when other problems surface during handling a case.  No agency will be allowed to say “we can’t help you” without adding, “but we know who can!”

√       No rough sleeping.  Rough sleeping means living in tents, sleeping bags, lean-tos, abandoned buildings, cardboard boxes or under bridges.   Menders believes that well run shelters (MP) provide a more intense, structured, first step to recovery than possible by a work program alone and will refer prospects seeking work to the shelters when there is no available opening in a Menders sponsored house.  Menders will focus on renovation of homes for the homeless using homeless labor wherever possible, but use sheltered homeless only where those same homeless will have an existing or future place in that house once it receives a CO.

Menders attempts to empty those and other participating shelters as fast as possible, so as to free up space in the shelters for other homeless by employing and relocating sheltered people to homes under renovation.    However, there are homeless that adamantly resist shelters for one reason or another, and Menders will try to find a place for everyone even if it means bringing them into a Menders rebuilding project early.

√       Spiritual Guidance (MP).   Area religious organizations are encouraged to establish a sponsorship of at least one member of those passing through a Menders program.   The desire is to bring each person into a faith community.  However, it is not a requirement for a client homeless person or family to participate in a religious program in order to receive aid from Menders.

√       Counseling (MP). Menders believes that it does little good to provide food and shelter if the problems leading to the need are not addressed.  Many of the homeless are mentally ill.  Many others have personal and medical problems (alcohol, drugs, relationships, etc) that are the result of, or perhaps precipitated by, crisis situations that led to the homelessness, or its risk, in the first place.   Menders believes that counseling must be available to assist every homeless person, to at least rebuild self-esteem, and whenever possible, provide whatever guidance is needed, including spiritual guidance.  Menders uses existing agencies and encourages various other clinics to volunteer time and resources, but does not engage in counseling activities itself. 

 Homelessness often becomes a reality for those that cannot manage finances, relationships (particularly marriages), jobs (or lack thereof), health problems (both physical and mental health), or a myriad of other problems (such as gambling, sex, drugs or alcohol), which would overwhelm many of us if we had the same problems.  Menders will encourage agencies to sort out and handle problems that can be solved by counseling.   Many counseling agencies already exist in most communities, and Menders will help the homeless participate in their programs.  

√       Food Depots and Diners (MP).   There will always be a need for food for those that cannot afford it, or have health problems that make it difficult or impossible to obtain or prepare meals for themselves.   The supporters of Menders are directed to be compassionate and feed the needy.   Our hearts won’t allow people to starve.  Yet people do starve – all over the world.   We lose people to hunger even in our own community, a problem Menders hopes to help solve with the crisis intervention hot line to help people that don’t know where to turn for the next meal and through active homeless prevention measures. 

Food banks and kitchens are available in many areas already.  Menders enlists any food bank and kitchen that is willing to help, rather than attempt to set one up on our own.

√       Shelters (MP).   Most shelters also feed their clients.  Some shelters provide counseling, job placement, hot meals and other support.  Others provide only the basics or are seasonal.  Menders enlists all shelters for program participants, use them as a source of temporary placement, and encourages organizations to create or fund new shelters, but does not operate a shelter under its name.  

However, Menders believes that the homeless need to be moved out of shelters wherever possible into self-sufficiency.   Those shelters that provide counseling, job placement and ongoing support are to be encouraged and supported to the highest degree and would be the prime source of referrals for the Menders Rehab for the Homeless Program.

How are you able to help?

Donate.  You can donate through Paypal by clicking on the Menders icon below or in the sidebar.   You may also donate by writing a check to: 

Macland Presbyterian Church, Homeless program.  

Mail to:

Macland Presbyterian Church, 3615 Macland Road • Powder Springs, Ga • 30127-1336 

No proceeds from these donations go to MPC operating programs or any program other than for the homeless. 

Help the Homeless – Donate to Menders!

  Mender’s Logo  Click Here to make a Paypal Donation to Menders

Founded by Oldtimer.

Please note:  This is a start-up program.  We need your donations and support to begin this program.  

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7 responses to “Homeless Menders

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  5. I commend your organization for making a very positive and well thought out plan not only to assist those in crisis but realize the benefit of crisis intervention. The restoration of homes for those who need shelter is a very viable solution for housing for our homeless…and having homeless citizens actually invest time and effort is a wonderful use of talents I wouldn’t be suprise if many other organizations offered assistance with this role model much as with Habitat for Humanity. Good luck and well done!

  6. Jim, I am guessing this is why we haven’t seen that much of you since our SW Cobb Team Meeting at Macland Presbyterian! :)

    This sounds like a great initiative, and I have forwarded the information to the leaders of the Homeless Issues Subcommittee of the Cobb Faith Partnership’s SW Cobb Team. We’ve collected over $3,000 in our Homeless Fund; you may want to contact either (names edited out) to see how we can all work together so as not to duplicate efforts and partner with one another.

    I also think it would be a great idea for your church to sign up for our Small Ministries forum and sign up for a table display to share more information about this and the other great outreach initiatives with which Macland Presbyterian is involved.

    I will be praying for this initiative, and please be sure to contact (names edited out) for support!

    Kathy Grosskurth
    Co-Team Leader, SW Cobb Team
    Cobb Faith Partnership, Inc.

  7. The above seems like a glowing endorsement by the past president of the Executive Board of CFP. Something happened as soon as she sent the referenced copy to the new president of the board!

    Within 2 days of Kathy sending this to the board of Cobb Faith Partnership (CFP) on March 13th, the new CFP Executive Board President ordered my entire CFP forum deleted and it was gone by noon of the 15th. No advance notice, no opportunity to archive or copy. They allowed 3 articles to remain out of almost 700.

    About 700 articles on homeless that I had personally written and more than 2000 hours of work destroyed without comment or forewarning. No official explanation, no chance to archive and no communication to date from anyone at the board.

    The homeless forum had alreay drawn over 150,000 readers from around the world and many thousands of new readers a month.

    The board is directed by and mostly made up of other service providers such as MUST and Sweetwater. CFP members include almost every church and provider in the county, including my own Macland Presbyterian, and myself as member, moderator and administrator. Nearly half of the donated money Kathy mentions was my personal donation to CFP’s homeless fund, and money that I would not have accepted if actually offered.

    It appears that a new homeless initiative in this town is not wanted. A large portion of my work is forever gone (about 75 articles were duplicated from here). It may be a misunderstanding of the purpose of Menders and it may be a worry about the already tight future grant money. It is possible that CFP thought I was starting a rival to Cobb Faith Partnership itself because I referred to other service providers as “Mender’s Partners”. Furtherest from the truth. MPs were simply to be called upon to provide the services that Mender’s did not provide directly, such as temporary shelter, counseling, clothing, food pantry, etc.

    It is a great blow to be swatted at by the very people that I had hoped to enlist. I should have known. This was not the first time a new initiative has been swatted at by CFP. Wounded but still flying.

    I still need these MPs but how do you mend a fence that has been steamrolled along its entire length?

    Oldtimer

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