Sunday, July 15, 2012

Good news travels fast.

This weekend, I was invited to a housewarming party in Dearborn, Michigan for a homeless person.

Don’t be surprised. There are homeless people living in some very nice neighborhoods. In their cars, in motel rooms for a day or a week, or in rental properties where they’re about to lose power due to utility shutoffs. Some folks walk along the precarious edge of poverty and it only takes one unexpected expense to make them lose their balance. They get behind and stop paying the heat and electric bill until that catches up with them.

The homeless fall off our radar in the summer, because we don’t think about the threat of frostbite and missing fingers and toes. But imagine you’ve got a baby or two school age kids and the clock is ticking on your eviction notice. You end up with all your worldly possessions on the curb with no place to store them, and no roof overhead in 90-degree temperatures and thunderstorms.

Then, when you finally unscramble your life and find enough money to afford a first month’s rent and security deposit, you’ve got no basic essentials. No mop, no bucket, no pot or pan, no wastebasket, no towels, no dishes, no cleanser, no soap, no pillows or blankets.

Thankfully, the Neighborhood Services Organization (NSO) has found a clever way to fill that need. This Michigan nonprofit has vowed to be “Always Within Reach” for Metro Detroit’s most vulnerable. They recently acquired the former Michigan Bell Building on Oakman Boulevard in Detroit and have converted the old facility into 155 one-bedroom, permanent, supportive apartments. The NSO helps the needy find their way home, and the “Housewarming Party” was their ingenious approach to involving the community.

Here’s how it works. You and your family, friends, club or church group plan to host a housewarming event to equip a homeless person’s apartment. You register with Target, NSO’s retail partner. There’s a standard list of goods that a person needs to start their new home, and your guests buy these items, just like they would for a bridal shower. Some are very affordable, everything from hand soap for 99 cents to a $65 microwave. Guests can do the shopping online and have the gifts shipped to your place or buy them at the store and bring them to your Housewarming Party. No need gift wrapping. Of course, donors can write checks to NSO and bring those to your party. You serve whatever you choose and every one has a good time and feels better for it.

Two super-active couples from Sacred Heart Church in Dearborn hosted the party I attended. There were about 40 folks having fun, munching burgers and grilled chicken and an assortment of scrumptious salads and beverages.  I almost felt guilty eating so well when I considered the purpose of the party.

If you’d like to learn more about the NSO, visit or call 313.961-4890.

It’s great to know there are truly visionary people thinking of ways for us to help change the world, one person at a time. They deserve more support. Help spread the word.

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