Welcome to Port Austin Bible Campus!
Since July, 2010, the Port Austin Bible Campus has opened its doors to help homeless people in Michigan's Thumb. Utilizing the buildings of the former Port Austin Air Force Base, PABC has provided emergency services to 794 people, 479 of which have stayed on the PABC campus. There are no other facilities for homeless men in Huron, Sanilac or Tuscola counties—even men with families. Each of these three counties has a women's shelter, but their first priority is domestic violence victims.
PABC receives referrals from a variety of government agencies, law enforcement, hospitals churches and other concerned individuals. We attend the Thumb Area Continuum of Care meetings which coordinate the homeless services for Huron, Lapeer, Sanilac and Tuscola counties.
All PABC staff are volunteers. Some work at part time jobs, others are retired. We do as much of our own maintenance as we can and grow much of our own food.. The annual expenses for the entire PABC ministry have typically been about $40,000, though more will be needed in the future to maintain the aging facilities.
PABC is a non-
Norman Edwards has done most of the work in founding the ministry, obtaining the buildings, writing the community policies and authoring this web site. He was born in 1956, the youngest of three sons. He completed a degree in business administration and worked as a computer analyst/programmer for 17 years. Afterward, he worked in independent Christian ministries involving much Bible study and writing and speaking to a variety of groups. Having married in 1985, he and his wife, Marleen, have raised four Christian sons, three of whom are married, with five children between them.
Bill Buckman was another founding member of PABC, having lived and worked on its campus since 2004. Bill is also the youngest of three children, being born in 1946. He has a master's degree in history and has studied the Bible and Middle Eastern archeology most of his life. He has been gradually working on a book that better reconciles the observations of archeology with the true biblical chronology. He is a single man, and has served in a great variety of capacities at PABC.
James Hall came to PABC as a guest in January of 2015. He has a master's degree in business and is quite competent in that area. Due to illness and other complex—but not criminal—circumstances, he became homeless and unable to effectively work in his field. He does most of our accounting, manages the men's dorm, helps other guests with financial issues and manages work projects.
Robbie Cox arrived at PABC in December of 2014. She is in the gray area of being to ill to hold down a job, but not quite serious enough to obtain disability payments. She has proved herself very reliable and drives Guests to jobs and appointments. She also manages the women's dorm.
Charlotte Thuemmel and her friend, Wendy, organized the Bible Church Homeless Coalition (BCHC) on February 11, 2015. (They do not live at PABC, but in the Port Austin area.) BCHC’s purpose was to encourage Thumb-area Christians to become personally involved in helping the homeless, both at PABC and other places as they are able. You are welcome to attend its monthly meetings every 2nd Thursday at 6:30 PM in the PABC Library. You may read more about it here.
We encourage you to explore our website and click on the links and buttons that interest you. Your questions and comments are welcome!
Port Austin Bible Campus, 8180 Port Drive, PO Box 474, Port Austin, Michigan 48467; 989-738-7700 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latest PABC News:
Come to the Kinde Pasta House, Oct 26, between 4:30 and 7:30 pm for a fabulous all-you-can-eat Pasta Buffet with three kinds of pasta, salad, veggies, bread, beverage and desert. Hear the live music and participate in one of the several kinds of auctions. Tickets are $10 for adults, ages 6-10 are $5 and children 5 and under are free. All proceeds go to help the homeless ministry. For more information, all Charlotte, 989-738-8772 or Jim 989-582-0781.
PABC finished its 6th year of homeless ministry providing shelter for 131 people: 56 men, 42 women and 33 children. The total number of be-nights were 10,787. These numbers are all about 20% more than any previous year. After six years of operation, PABC has served a grand total of 41,368 bed nights. (Bed nights are calculated by adding up the total number of nights that every guest stayed at PABC.)
Today, we had a new single man, a new single woman and a new couple come to PABC. We currently have 42 guests, one more than our previous high count of 41 in November of 2012. This is the time of year when many people ask those who are struggling to leave their homes or their rental properties if they do not want them to remain through the winter. Thankfully, most people are more reluctant to send out others in the cold of winter. Several current guests are close to achieving their own housing, which will open up some of our space, but we do not know how many more Guest rooms we will need to add in the short term.
Because of our increasing number of guests, we spent $400 for Consumer's Energy to install natural gas to our mens and womens dormitories. In the past, the Women's dorm hand only electric space heaters and the men's dorm, a wood stove and space heaters. We have been given two gas furnaces and we are now looking for skilled help to install them. This should greatly reduce the cost of heat and increase reliability. Anyone able to help may contact Norm at 989-738-7700.
A hard-working mom on maternity leave came to PABC with her precious two-week old twins. The reason was the most common one: she was staying with someone temporarily—not on their lease—and the landlord found out and asked her to leave—by the next day. The girls are healthy and growing. Their cries are quiet enough and mom is quick enough that they are not waking up the rest of the building during their numerous night-time feedings. Mom should be back in her own housing in a few weeks.
The Bible Church Homeless Coalition put on a very successful benefit at the Pasta House in Kinde on October 13. About 133 people came and nearly $2000 was raised for the ministry. A great dinner was enjoyed by all and many people enjoyed winning/purchasing the items that were donated. A combination of show tunes, old standards and contemporary music enlightened the ears of the patrons. We hope to do this again next year. We hope you can come.
PABC had its second baby born to a Guest family! This sweet little girl was born at 3:55 P.M. on 8/29/15, 21 inches long and weighing 7 lbs, 12 oz. Mom, dad, brother and sister are doing fine. Everyone was back at PABC in two days. Dad is working a full-time job and sometimes a second job. They have purchased a car and will be moving into their own house in a few weeks. The oldest child will be starting school.
As of this date, all registered sex offenders have left PABC and no more will be accepted. This will make it much easier for government and other services workers to recommend PABC for families with Children. PABC wants to help innocent children the most—as they are almost never the cause of their own homelessness. While PABC had always housed offenders and children in separate buildings and never had any accusations of offenders repeating their crimes, members of our legal and social services systems felt otherwise. Their recommendations can determine whether or not parents retain custody of their children. We will still try to help registered sex offenders find housing, either in other programs or in ourOff Campus Housing Ministry, but they will not come to PABC even for interviews. Read more about this in our September Newsletter.
As of July 1, of this year, PABC is celebrating 5 years of ministry to the homeless of Michigan's Thumb. We have provided over 30,000 bed-nights for 146 men, 114 women and 88 children—347 total. At least 75% of these people left PABC to stable housing situations. Many families have stayed together and individuals have returned to productive lives because of the efforts of the PABC staff and the Bible Church Homeless Coalition and other supporters! Nearly all of them learned more about the Bible and some have found a new relationship with God!
A young, pregnant couple moved out of PABC today. They came in 64 days ago, each with court fines to pay. The man got a dairy job, paid off their fines and arranged for their own housing. They got married and are looking forward to their baby. They did the work—they just needed a place to get started.
Fifteen people attended the first meeting of the Bible Church Homeless Coalition (BCHC). Its purpose is to bring Christians together to help Thumb residents in need, especially the homeless. Huron Country is its primary emphasis, but it will also assist those in Sanilac and Tuscola counties. Read more about it here.
PABC now has 30 Guests: 13 men, 6 women and 11 children. Some of the children are part-time—they are in a shared custody situation, so they spend part of their time with the parent who lives at PABC and part with another parent who lives elsewhere. Parents who do not use their court-ordered parenting time may have it taken away by the court. Also, we experience the situation where part-time children suddenly become full-time children at PABC when their "away" parent becomes hospitalized or goes to jail.
Our “women & families section” is full right now--with two single women doubled-up. We have had to turn some women down. We do have another building we have used as a women's dorm in the past, but we cannot afford to heat it right now.
Five PABC Guests completed a season of work in the sugar beet processing plants this year. It was often cold, windy and sometimes rainy, but they all kept their jobs, sometimes working as long as 16-hour days—even when they were not feeling well. Some of these Guests were in their 50s or had minor disabilities. Unfortunately, finding another job quickly in Huron County is not usually a simple task. We are praying that they will.
During the past several weeks, PABC Guests have obtained a variety of jobs, several of which are now living on their own. Areas of work include restaurants, dairies and construction..
PABC has now served 422 people, providing a 275 of them with a place to stay—anywhere from one night to over a year. You can see the statistics and read about the people href="/homeless/PABC Guest Log.htmlhere..
Following the Biblical teaching of immersion baptism, James Kenny asked to be baptized in Lake Huron on Pentecost, June 8, 2014. Norman Edwards and Jake Cartwright baptized and laid hands on him to receive the Holy Spirit. Afterward, the congregation joined in a meal and afternoon service.
We had five new people ask today for a place to stay at PABC. Two are here and the others are still talking. He have had another seven ask for a place within the last two weeks. Three of these are only 18 years old, without family help.
PABC staff and Guests planted about 2/3 of its largest garden ever during the last 4 days. Food prices continue to go up. Fresh organic food is more difficult to get from food banks and not affordable in quantity on food-stamp budgets. We planted: squash, cucumbers, corn, beans, onions, carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbage, peas, turnip greens, kale, bok choy, and kale. More is on the way.
The Huron County Circuit Court ruled against us, and sustained the District Court's judgment that we were guilty of having chickens in a business district. We were able to present our case to the judge, and he raised some important issues not previously raised by the plaintiff. Nevertheless, the judge did not write a judgment detailing the legal reasons for his decision, but relied on the record, which is not yet finished with transcription.
We admit this is a very unusual case and that there are few if any cases like it anywhere in our country. Most churches are corporations—artificial persons created by the state—and the courts have long held that they are subject to zoning laws with certain limitations. However, we believe that there are sound legal reasons why unincorporated churches are not subject to zoning—just as they are not subject to taxation, and that such arguments were not answered by the Circuit Court. So a request for leave to appeal was filed on May 13, 2014 at the Michigan Court of Appeals in Lansing. We do not yet know if the Court of Appeals will decide to hear the case or not.
Because of some last minute grants, Health Delivery, Inc. has opened a Health Center at 1080 Van Dyke Rd, Bad Axe, MI 48413—at the hospital complex. They are open from 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and provide a range of clinic-type services. While they accept most insurance and Medicaid, they also accept people without insurance, operating on an income-based fee schedule. Lowest level income people can receive many services for about $20. Several PABC Guests have already used their services. You may contact them at 989-623-0137.
It has been PABC's past experience that many landlords, relatives and other people are slow to send people out of their dwelling when it is very cold outside. However, once the weather warms up, those are behind in rent, not officially on leases, difficult to get along with or simply no longer wanted are asked to leave. We are likely to see a surge in Guests over the next few months.
After 3 years and 7 months of operation, PABC has given its Guests 20,000 bed-nights, which is the sum of the nights that each of our 252 Guests had a place at PABC. See details here.
Kate Hessling of the Huron Daily Tribune interviewed Norman Edwards on Wednesday, January 8th and this story was printed today: (click here.)
Thanks to last year's gift of a stove & chimney, this year's gift of some wood, and a gift of some good electric space heaters, the men are staying warm in the men's dorm—even with zero-degree weather. Ultimately, we would like to re-insulate the buildings and put in a good central heating system. It would cost less and be more comfortable. But learning to make do with (and avoid complaining about) what we have is an important lesson for success and happiness in life. Working together and enduring hardship together has produced a level of cooperation and peace that we have not always had at PABC.
The second PABC Newsletter was published on the web site and mailed today. You can see the contents and read the articles by clicking here.
Two PABC Guests were married today in our campus dining hall. It was our most elaborate wedding to date. The tables were moved outside for the wedding feast and theater seating was set up inside. About 40 people attended. A great variety of people pitched in for food, decorations, flowers and other niceties. The couple had known each other over a year. Both were middle-aged, quite responsible individuals who had each lived through every difficult situations in the past. They hope to be moving into their own home soon. They did not want to live together until they were married.
This is the fifth wedding performed for PABC Guests. Unless something has gone wrong very recently, all five couples are still together. We at PABC want to balance out teaching against sex outside of marriage with strong support for well-though-out marriages. May God bless those who seek to obey his ways!
On June 11, 2013, the jury found us guilty of having chickens in a business district. The only two items the jury was asked to decide were: 1) Did we have chickens? (we said we did) and 2) Were they in a business district? The following important issues were barred from presentation to the jury by pretrial conferences: 1) Do zoning laws apply to an unincorporated church, and 2) Does the proper construction of the law actually forbids our non-profit use of chickens.
These issues were again clearly presented to the judge on July 1, 2013, in a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict. The motion was heard and denied on July 9, 2013, but the substantive points of law were not addressed either by the prosecuting attorney or the judge. Therefore, an appeal was filed to the Huron County Circuit Court on July 31, 2013. The transcript from the trial will probably not be ready until early October, and the briefs not ready until mid-November. A December decision is the earliest possible.
Twice within seven days PABC has responded to law enforcement calls and driven significant distances about midnight to pick up homeless people who would have otherwise likely become wards of the state. One was a 17-year old from Huron county. She had left home to escape a difficult environment, stayed with a relative, then a friend, then a friend of a friend—and was asked to leave late one night.
The second one was a couple with their one month old baby staying with a friend in Sanilac county. The man had received counterfeit money as a payment on an old debt. He unknowingly passed in onto his friend who passed in onto his landlord. They were not charged in the matter, but the landlord insisted on his legal right to have them leave immediately, as they were not on the lease. If a child does not have a place to stay overnight, law enforcement usually asks Child Protective Services (CPS) to place the child in protective custody. CPS and the courts are generally very slow to release a child back to a homeless or unstable living situation.
For many months, we have hoped to mail out a newsletter several times a year to those who are interested in PABC and to other service providers to homeless people. Today, we finally mailed the first issue to 140 people and institutions. Another 127 will receive it via e-mail. You may view it on-line here:http://www.portaustin.net/pabc/newsletters/news-13-05.html
The trial for a zoning violation for having chickens in a business district has been put off till June 10th. Read more about it as the top item on our "Controversies" page.
After being with us for nine months, a father and his four children were able to find a new home. Thanks go out to the father and many people in private organizations and government agencies who worked on the many complex details. Thanks also to those who have helped maintain PABC as no other shelter in the Thumb area is able to offer housing to fathers with teenage daughters.
The PABC Guest count is down to 18 as several families have moved into apartments or homes. Most will also be going to work or school. Various government programs presently have money for deposits and a few months rent. We were able to provide access to a fax machine, the Internet (required for some programs) and our pickup truck and trailer for moving. We also sell inexpensive used furniture that we have collected to help these start-up homes.
A couple of current PABC Guests as well as a couple who were formerly PABC Guests became legally married at PABC today. Both couples had been together many years and were well-accepted and loved by their children. Had these couples not been able to stay at PABC, they would have gone to other shelters that would have housed them separately, producing a great strain on thee families.
While the Bible teaches that people should be married before making babies, public education and entertainment media do not. Many people with no biblical background have uncommitted sexual relationships and children with one or more partners before learning it is a mistake. They often repent and determine to remain committed to their current partner, but do not marry simply because they believe it costs hundreds of dollars and they do not have it. (Indeed, some churches charge that much.) We have been able to help couples marry for $0 to $20. A legal marriage produces numerous advantages for the family:
Thanks to the diligent work of the Huron County Homeless Coalition, numerous government agencies, the United Protestant Church and the parents of the family, this family of six moved into a house today—the father's new job.
PABC now has 13 men, 11 women and 17 children. The latest family consisted of a father, mother and 4 children, ages 7 to 12. The count will likely drop in the next few days as several Guests have jobs and housing lined up.
Thanks to the efforts of the Bad Axe churches, PABC has a new chimney system for its men's dorm. We have purchased one used wood stove, and need another for the second floor. The hall duct system is working, and we hope to put a stove in the second floor as well.
The Women's dorm is still relying on electric space heaters, but some friends of PABC are considering how they might help place more economical heat in that building as well.
The Port Austin Police brought a husband, wife and two preschoolers to PABC about 9:30 P.M. The family had called PABC earlier that day, but PABC encouraged them to try to work out their situation with the husband's parents, where they were staying. The home situation deteriorated to the point where the police advised the family not to return. All of PABC's family rooms were occupied, but a few PABC Guests proved a great help by quickly moving together or changing buildings for the new arrivals. The family also has two infants, who were with friends for a couple days, but whom will be rejoining them at PABC.
PABC now has 10 men, 11 women and 13 children. Help is always appreciated.
Several of the PABC Residents have found full- and part-time work. Jobs include dairy faming, poultry farming, household-help, and a start-up handyman service.
We keep track of the number of nights each person has a bed available here at PABC. The total number of nights since we began in July 2010 is now 10,216. The average length of stay has been 88 nights for men, 60 for women and 49 for children.
PABC now has 12 men, 8 women and 13 children. The latest family consisted of a husband, wife and 5- and 2-year old girls. They had difficulty staying with in-laws so they left late at night to avoid any kind of physical fight. They tried to call or contact other friends, but to no avail.
The Bad Axe Police found them on the street, took them to the Sheriff's office and called PABC at 2:00 A.M. They would have brought the family to us, but do not have child safety seats for their patrol cars. We picked them up and gave them a room for the night. They had distant relatives planning to come get them the next day.
Michigan law says: “‘Neglect’ means harm to a child's health or welfare by a person responsible for the child's health or welfare which occurs through negligent treatment, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care” (MCL 722.702(d)). Not providing any shelter for small children is often interpreted as “neglect”, and can result in court cases for parents and children temporarily being taken away. This is traumatic for children and parents, and expensive for the various state agencies and courts as well. PABC prevented all of this with only a few dollars of cost to itself.
PABC now has 11 men, 8 women and 13 children. The difficulties mentioned in the two news items, below, have largely gone by the wayside. There are no more ongoing disputes. A summary of the whole issue is available on our Controversies page.
You may read the articles by Tom Gilchrist in the Huron Daily Tribune at the locations below. There are numerous questions on them, most of which I answered. While the articles and questions are a great mixture of positive and negative, they tell the story of how PABC operates, as well as display the support, fears and apathy of many people in the surrounding area.
The meeting at the Port Austin Village Council started about 6:40 P.M. and they talked about the PABC homeless program until 8:20 P.M. There were no decisions to be made as PABC is not in the village of Port Austin, but in the Township. However, many people from both areas were present and the township does use police and other services from the village.
The purpose was largely informational as most had little idea about how PABC operated and Norman Edwards, of PABC, had little previous opportunity to hear their views. He was able to present quite a bit of information on how PABC works and why. He explained how PABC weeds out people committing crimes and how it has aided in the prosecution of people who otherwise might have gone undetected. A few of the visitors seemed to appreciate PABC's ministry as it is, but the Council and visitors ("they", below) expressed many misgivings, summarized as follows:
Norman Edwards said he would pray and think about the last request. The only alternative they proposed was that the homeless people go to the Port Huron, Bay City and Saginaw shelters, 90 minutes away knowing that breaks up families, job contacts, schooling, etc.
Norman did not think of this simple yet obvious answer during the meeting: If the people of Port Austin want PABC to stop, all they need do is get together with a few other cities and use their greater financial and educational capabilities to create their own shelter, in a location that does not bother anyone, with trained staff, adequate separation of different types of people, nearby jobs, code compliance, insurance, and all the other things that they have asked PABC to do. Once the new facility is in place, everyone will use it rather than PABC, and PABC will naturally stop. This is a win-win-win situation: better for Port Austin, better for PABC and better for the homeless people.
A Mother of three here at PABC passed her final General Education Development exam, which is the equivalent of a high school diploma. Even at age 31, this milestone opens the door to better jobs and the possibility of college education. Congratulations!
We now have 20 adults and 7 children. See story, below.
With the recent addition of a family of 5, and an unrelated single man, PABC now has 23 homeless Guests. (We do not name Guests for their benefit.) Even so, some have asked, “Does Port Austin need a shelter? Aren't there other alternatives?” There are. From our experience with homeless people, here are some of the alternatives they have used:
Our efforts to provide central heating in our mens dorm were not successful. We did not have the funds for any of the quotes we obtained. Fortunately, the winter was mild this year and the electric space heaters provided sufficient heat. Unfortunately, we have been left with a $10,000 electric bill! It would have been much better to spent that money on a more efficient heating system. We continue to be required to pay only $300 per month, but a better solution is needed before next winter!
After helping for a year, Adam Miller will be moving on from PABC to pursue his life goal of providing Christian help to orphans and disadvantaged children. He is seeking work at some of the few places that do this. As state governments assert jurisdiction over all minor children through the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act, it is not lawful for a person, church or other institution to simply offer to care for orphans or run-away children. State governments place nearly all of these children in foster families or in group foster homes, but regulations limit the Christian approach. The "residential education model"—a boarding school with a Christian living environment—provides much more flexibility, but requires more funds to start and operate. At present, PABC is not able to begin such a venture.
PABC is still in need for a central heating system for its Mens Dorm, which currently houses 9 people. Right now, it is using only electric space heaters, which are expensive and may be insufficient for the coldest parts of winter. Read more about it here.
Two days ago, PABC accepted a family of three, pushing its number of current Guests to 15, the most it has ever been. We have now offered shelter to a total of 100 people, 77 of which needed it.
PABC will host a Thanksgiving Day meal at 12 noon for anyone who needs a place to go. Tracy Schuman, a professional chef, will be cooking. Anyone who would like to help him, with either labor or resources can contact him at 989-476-0214.
Two new Guests arrived today, and two more confirmed that they will be coming in a few days. All of our Guests that had arrived before this May have now found places to stay.
We have continued to search for central heat for our dormitories before the winter. It is not in place yet, but we believe we have found someone who will donate a system to us.
Today, PABC is celebrating the Biblical Feast of Trumpets, with a meal at noon and service at 1:30 p.m. We will also celebrate the following biblical Feast days:
Four new Guests have arrived in the last seven days: A single woman, a single man and a couple. (We do not name Guests for their benefit.)
A former PABC Guest whom we required to leave last June plead guilty to a charge of Larceny Less Than $200. The PABC staff and other Guests found him to be taking small things at least 10 different times—apparently an ongoing habit. When questioned about the thefts, he refused to admit each one until confronted with the evidence. PABC staff and Guests filed complaints with the Huron County Sheriff. He was sentenced with $280 in fines and 16 hours community service.
PABC teaches repentance and forgiveness of sin, but this is not possible until a person can admit their mistakes. When a person is in denial, a punishment is generally the only way for them to see that they need to change and begin treating others as they would want to be treated. Obtaining a criminal record is helpful in these cases because it forces the person to deal with their situation. It also helps to protect the community and and other shelters from ongoing theft.
Today, two of the PABC Homeless Guests moved to their own apartment. It is funded by a government rental-assistance program that requires two unrelated people on disability to share an apartment. Not very many people can make use of the program because most disabled people do not know someone else who is willing to share a room with them. Living at PABC gave these two Guests a chance to get to know each other and apply for the program together. Hopefully, some of the sharing and cooperation skills learned here will help them work together during the coming months.
A few hours after they left, another man arrived. He had been sleeping outside for months, and was told by local police that he cannot sleep on public property.
One of the Guests at PABC started a new job that will likely lead to full-time work for him. (We do not name Guests for their benefit.)
Chaplain Chuck Rondo, Pastor James Solomon, Mike Bearden and David Ostentoski from the Living Waters Chapel, Caro, Michigan toured the Port Austin Bible Campus homeless facilities on Friday, August 5.
They expressed their desire to see the homeless services of PABC continue as the Michigan economy continues to worsen. They also mentioned some members of their church had received letters from the State of Michigan indicating their cash assistance would be cut off, due to the recently passed laws (See story here.) As one of the men said, “This is the money these people use for rent. Where are these people going to live when its gone?”
Pastor Solomon encouraged PABC to obtain estimates of the cost of heating the PABC dormitories, as well as estimates for other projects so that we would be able to serve more people on a year-round basis. He also encouraged us to provide spiritual teaching to them, and to involve them in helping out here, to the extent that they are able. PABC is in the process of obtaining those estimates.
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