Most people know that homelessness can exist anywhere, including Fenton, Linden and Holly.
“It is a big problem,” said Jennifer Strygulec, co-director of Fenton Center of Hope (FCOH). The FCOH is a local community organization with a food pantry, baby closet and pregnancy resource center. They also are referred to local families and individuals living out of their vehicles.
On Monday, Nov. 25, a homeless man, Stephen Bale, 52, was killed while crossing Owen Road at night by wheelchair. It wasn’t for lack of help from individuals, police and aid organizations.
Jennifer’s spouse, Bob Strygulec, said they help about one homeless person per week, though they don’t have definite numbers. “I can say it’s growing,” Jennifer said. “Every community has homeless people.”
Clients usually come in for assistance with food or other immediate needs, which is when the center finds out they’re homeless. For them, gas cards are very helpful. FCOH works on their immediate needs but also on the root issue which led to their homelessness. They might refer them to check into a hospital or spend hours with someone to talk them through their issue.
“Unless you have money saved up for an emergency, it can happen in a couple months,” Jennifer said. “You can be homeless.” Jennifer said the root causes can be mental illness or a big life change, such as losing a job, a home or a family member. Even a car crash, which renders you unable to work, could lead to homelessness.
She said shelters start filling up as the weather cools. Finding temporary emergency housing can be difficult, especially if you’re a father with children, or a senior.
“Locally, we have hundreds of people experiencing homelessness,” Stacy Daul said, adding that there are
approximately 63,000 in Michigan. Her family founded Snuggle Sacks: Resources for the Homeless.
Homelessness, in part, is experienced by an individual or family who lacks “regular and adequate nighttime residence, such as those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing or places not meant for habitation.” This definition is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The homeless can also include those 14 days away from losing their primary residence with no viable housing plan. Definitions also include unaccompanied youth and those escaping domestic violence.
Daul said her organization has helped 13,000 homeless with their survival packages since 2015. Her daughters, Addisyn and Sheridan Goss, urge anyone who meets someone who they think is homeless to treat them with kindness and respect and to try to link them to a local aid organization.
Fenton Police Chief Jason Slater said the police have attempted to aid two people who are homeless in the past two years, though police aren’t usually involved unless there is a complaint.
One such past complaint involved Bale, in his wheelchair, seen in a traffic lane on Owen Road. Another complaint involved a woman observed sleeping in her car on private property for an extended period of time. Trespassing or squatting on property is illegal.
Police try to get them assistance. They have gone as far as driving Bale to Social Security Administration to get assistance. “We try to use all the resources available to help those folks,” Slater said.
He said there are local organizations that can bridge the gap and get those at risk of homelessness through difficult times. Aside from FCOH and Snuggle Sacks, Fenton Area Resource and Referral (FARR) can also get residents assistance to bridge the gap and keep their homes, or keep their lights on.
Local aid resources:
FARR Network serves those in the Fenton, Lake Fenton and Linden school districts.
Fenton Center of Hope assists neighbors who are hungry and in need of resources.
2525 W. Shiawassee Ave., Fenton
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Snuggle Sacks: Resources for the Homeless provides survival kits with basic essentials like food, toiletry and clothing items. They offer assistance, but can also always use donations and volunteers.