Hope for the Homeless
By Shelby Perry
Homelessness in Kosciusko County is bigger than many realize. In 2016, Data USA, which collects data from all over the country, estimated that 11% of Kosciusko County lives below the poverty line. One of the biggest responses to of homelessness in our area is Fellowship Missions, a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides residents a place to stay, as well as consistent meals and Christian mentoring programs designed to transform lives.
Executive director Eric Lane and his wife formed Fellowship Missions in 2010 due to the major need that they saw in the community. The organization has grown from providing emergency services to providing temporary housing, consistent meals, and programs that teach basic life skills and promote the overall well-being of the residents. The shelter has 46 beds total but, using cots as well, is able to hold around 70 people during freezing weather conditions.
There are many causes to homelessness; however, Lane considers mental illness to be the leading cause of homelessness because of its impact in every area of individual’s lives. Melissa Demopoulos, the community relations director for Fellowship Missions says “the most vulnerable to homelessness are those struggling with a chronic physical or mental disorder.” In fact, 85% of those who receive services at Fellowship Missions have a mental health condition and/or addiction. Much of this poverty is generational and the problem with the cycle of poverty stems from broken relationships and broken social structures.
“What we see is a need to develop meaningful, deep relationships with people because all of the success stories we have seen are folks who have been nurtured through living relationship where they are seen and heard and known,” says Demopoulos.
Because Fellowship Missions is a faith-based organization, it does not qualify for state or federal funding, which makes Fellowship Missions entirely reliant on donations from the community. With only four full time staff and one part time staff, Lane says that aside from monetary donations, one of their biggest needs is volunteers. Lane and Demopoulos say that the shelter always needs volunteers to help serve meals in the kitchen, as well as volunteers to come and spend time with the residents, especially the children.
Starting in 2019, Fellowship Missions will be opening up their own crowdfunding platform, so individuals can help raise funds for the shelter. They also will be beginning quarterly tours of their facility that is open to the public. The first quarterly tour of 2019 will be on January 8 with three 30 minute tour times throughout the day, one at 8 a.m., one at 12 p.m., and one at 6 p.m. However, the organization is always open to scheduling tours to those who are interested.
For more information about Fellowship Missions, visit fellowshipmissions.net.
Image above: Fellowship Missions provides hope for the homeless of the Warsaw/Winona Lake area. It is located at 1520 Winona Ave., Warsaw.