Helping the Homeless
The Port Austin Bible Campus (PABC) is a Christian community located on part of the property of the former Port Austin Air Force base, which provides housing for homeless people. From July 1, 2010 to October 1, 2016, it has helped 794 homeless people, 323 men, 261 women and 210 children. 479 Guests have actually stayed on campus: 193 men, 155 women and 131 children. Most of our Guests move on to stable housing situations. We currently have 34 Guests on campus: 13 men, 8 women and 13 children.
View our graphs of Men, Women and Children by month and Minimum, Average and Maximum Guests on Campus by Month.)
44,116 bed-nights have been provided to homeless guests. (The sum of the number of nights that each person has stayed at PABC.) If government or relief agencies would have had to place these people in hotels, it would have cost millions of dollars. But PABC's cost is only about $40,000 per year. PABC has provided numerous things that hotels do not: transportation to jobs, transportation to critical appointments, information on local resources, food, case management, encouragement, Bible classes, prayer, and other things as needed. Unfortunately, we are still trying to pay off previous debt and make our energy consumption more efficient. We do appreciate your help!
Some whom we have accepted actually solve their problems before they stay a night at PABC. Others stay from a few nights. A few have remained over a year. The average stay is 85 nights for men, 69 for women and 74 for children. Only a few Guests arrive here due to a total lack of planning. Most thought they had some kind of housing arrangements, but they fell apart at the last minute with little warning.
Some PABC Guests have suffered greatly in the present economy and have simply run out of resources. Some are suffering from long-term illnesses, but but do not yet have the programs and paperwork in place to receive care for them. Most have come from a difficult past where they were not loved or not well cared for by parents. Some have arrived here from jail or prison and are doing a great job of trying to get a new start in life.
Others show little appreciation for what we are providing. Yet others feign appreciation continually, and are highly skilled at telling whatever story they think is necessary to get them what they want. Some have committed crimes while living here. We have worked with law enforcement and they have been successfully prosecuted. We do not want to quietly send them away so they can repeat the same crimes elsewhere.
Government Programs and their funding continually change.
Most of the people who come are recommended by government agencies, other shelters and hospitals. PABC sends a representative to the six annual meetings of the Thumb Area Continuum of Care, an umbrella organization that meets every other month to coordinate the activities of public and private entities that help homeless and struggling people (Articles about it: #1 #2) There are no other shelters in Huron County, or the adjoining Sanilac and Tuscola counties, that will take almost anyone on an immediate basis. Other facilities accept only women and children, giving priority to abused women.
The fastest government rehousing programs take days to weeks before a person can actually move in. Sometimes emergency motel vouchers are available—sometimes not. Some programs can take even longer. Not everyone qualifies for every program, and sometimes programs and not funded on time or run out of funds completely. Some programs require the person to have some income, so the Guests must stay at PABC until they can get jobs or qualify for assistance. Others do not qualify because they theoretically have too much money—but their money may be unavailable for months, subject to divorce or other litigation. Still others are restricted from programs and housing due to past convictions, evictions or unpaid utility bills. If PABC were not here, these people would have to go to shelters 80 miles away where it is nearly impossible to pursue current job leads, get help from neighbors, keep their children in the same school, etc.
The budgets available and the qualification procedures for each housing program frequently change. From this writers experience, our local housing program administrators are trying to do the best job possible, but even they do not always know in advance what the exact program rules will we or when money will be available. Sometimes, all thy can do is put people on program waiting lists, not knowing how long they may have to wait. Part of the problem is ongoing government indecision and budget crises. Another big issue is the effort to stop people from dishonestly taking advantage of these programs. Some people really need help, but others will deliberately hide or consume their wealth just so that they can qualify for programs. Governments and their agencies are constantly adding more checks and controls to prevent fraud and abuse, but program abusers are continually thinking of ways to circumvent them.
To reduce long-term abuse of social services, governments have added life-time benefit limits—after 4 to 7 years, people will simply become ineligible for various programs. While many of the people affected by these limits will be discontinued abusers, there are others who have experienced a series of severe difficulties and still need them. There is also talk about "hardship" applications for extension. Unfortunately, both those truly in need and some abusers will be in line to apply.
Living Among Them
PABC faces these same kinds of problems as well: Who really needs help and who could get along without it? Who is pretending to be worse off than they really are? Governments and most other agencies have to decide this with a series of forms and the ability to check financial and government records. These things have their place, but they are not the same as caring Christians living among the people they are trying to help. It is much more difficult for Guests to keep secrets when someone sees them come and go, sees what they eat, sees what they buy and notices if they are drunk or drugged.
It is PABC's goal to help each person learn to help themselves and be as self-sufficient as possible. This is taught both from the aspect of not relying on government programs that may lose funding, and also from the Golden Rule aspect: If you do not want to support somebody else with your work, why should somebody else support you? PABC uses biblical principles on how to help the poor, teaching them to do as much for themselves as they can—even if it is a lot of work. PABC Guests prepare their own food, help to grow some of their food, clean the areas they use, recycle their own trash, work whatever odd jobs are available, pay their own utilities to the extent possible, etc.
PABC provides Biblical education and encouragement to all guests through required daily classes and weekly meetings, and church services if they are interested. It is our goal to fill their lives with good Christian examples, productive work and education toward independence. We are always looking for mature Christians to come and help minister to those who are here.
Striving for Self-Sufficiency
PABC does not accept any government funds, as it would not be able to continue with its biblical approach, and might well end up in the same difficulty as other government-supported programs which must be cut to balance budgets after too many years of deficit spending. Ultimately, PABC strives to reach a level of self-sufficiency where it will not need any outside assistance, but would be self sufficient from the work of those living on its campus. This would be good for us and a good example to those we help. We are not there yet!
PABC certainly welcomes those who want to help with its programs or simply want to tour the campus. You may contact us at:
Port Austin Bible Campus, 8180 Port Drive, PO Box 474, Port Austin, Michigan 48467. 989-738-7700 firstname.lastname@example.org.
More on PABC Homeless Ministry