WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTO | OPEN DOORS KALAMAZOO
For over 50 years, Open Doors Kalamazoo has been partnering with people in need of housing and personal support. How? By understanding and living out the mission that everyone deserves a safe place to call home.
Open Doors Kalamazoo’s mission notes that establishing a residence is necessary for a healthy, productive life. The nonprofit is building a community of people who are overcoming homelessness not only through housing, but also through relationships, employment, education, and sobriety in response to God’s love for all.
Unfortunately, their important work has been side-tracked by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Having a shelter-in-place order brought into stark light the importance of having a place to call home, a place where you can keep yourself and your family safe, and know that you are cared for and supported,” stated Stephanie Hoffman, Executive Director.
The office was closed for months, and their annual fundraiser – Discover Open Doors – was canceled this year. The cancellation was necessary, yet costly.
This fundraiser is critical to carrying out the mission, as Open Doors relies on financial support from individuals as well as businesses, foundations, community groups, and churches. The nonprofit is privately funded by people who want to make a difference.
At the Discover Open Doors event, people whose lives have been significantly impacted by Open Doors share their stories, and attendees celebrate the many successes. There is no cost to attend, but the hope is that when people hear about the impact Open Doors Kalamazoo makes in the community, they will be inspired to contribute.
October 2020 will mark 50 years that Open Doors Kalamazoo has been partnering with families and individuals as they work diligently to change the trajectory of their lives. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not clear how they will celebrate and bring even more awareness to the public at large about how critical housing is to a family’s continued success.
Open Doors Kalamazoo has two components: the overnight shelter program and the Residence Community for Working People, their affordable housing component.
The Open Door is a residential shelter for men who have nowhere to live; The Next Door is for homeless women – the first established in Kalamazoo. Staff members strive to develop relationships with the guests, work with them on employment and personal issues, and encourage them to stay long enough to gain stability. On average, two-thirds of the guests find employment, save for future housing, and maintain their sobriety.
The Residence Community, established in 2004, provides apartments for low-wage working individuals and families who are otherwise priced out of the housing market. In addition to affordable housing, the Residence Community also offers support, community, and resources. For example, multiple scholarships are available from the Open Doors scholarship fund to help people gain education and broaden their horizons.
In recent years, roughly 1,000 Kalamazoo County kindergarten through 12th-grade students identified as homeless. Government affordable housing programs for low-income people serve only 23% of eligible participants due to inadequate funding, according to Open Doors Kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo County is working to make advancements on behalf of the homeless population in the community. Their 2020 recommended budget supported a significant county-wide housing initiative, established by a group made up of leadership from Kalamazoo County municipalities, which included new funding and the creation of a shelter/transitional housing.
The History of Open Doors Kalamazoo
An ecumenical group of Christians established The Open Door Coffee House in 1970 as a drop-in center to build relationships of support and caring with urban young people. When the founders discovered there were many young people with nowhere to live, they turned their focus to providing overnight shelter.
Though the nonprofit is not formally connected to any church, its roots are in the Christian faith. The founders and many of the staff and board members became committed to serving all people because their faith communities taught them that all people matter, regardless of their religious faith, spiritual beliefs, or sexual orientation.
Today, the organization serves more than 200 of Kalamazoo’s vulnerable community members each year in conjunction with Kalamazoo County.
Open Doors Kalamazoo
1141 S Rose Street, Suite B
Kalamazoo MI 49001
(269) 343-6064 l OpenDoorsKalamazoo.org