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The Refuge in Otsego County

Remains committed to the cause of homelessness by providing emergency overnight shelter to those in need.




Kayla Albrecht, General Manager and Scott Pauley, CEO of AWAKON Federal Credit Union present Judi Doan, Coordinator of The Refuge in Otsego County, with a check to help provide temporary emergency housing in Otsego County.


April 2024 Press Release - Kyla Albrecht, General Manager of AWAKON Federal Credit Union in Gaylord committed to take the “Polar Plunge” at AlpenFrost if she received $2,000 in pledges for The Refuge. And she did! Thank you so much Kayla and AWAKON!

“This winter season has been anything but ordinary,” said Judi Doan, Coordinator of The Refuge in Otsego County. “The weather has been milder but that has not reduced the number of people seeking emergency shelter from The Refuge.”

The Refuge, provides short term housing help to Otsego residents by using hotels in the community. “We continue to set records far in excess of prior year totals – 1078 overnights for 164 people in 92 households and, we won’t close for another two months,” Doan continued. The dramatic increase in requests has been a big funding challenge for The Refuge, a largely volunteer organization with its roots in Faith based community organizations. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, most of its funding comes from local individuals and organizations. “This year we are on track to serve more than 100 local households which nearly doubles our cost. We are so
grateful to those local individuals and organizations who have continued to support us, including several funds of the Otsego Community Foundation,” said Sue Smith, President of the Refuge.


“There seems to be little evidence the need is going to go down anytime soon,” said Doan. We see increases in our Otsego ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population generally and that is our client base. In addition to the actual housing we provide, each month we also counsel and provide community services information to another 30-40 households in distress. This seems to be a need likely only to grow,” Doan concluded.


If you would like to support The Refuge’s efforts, you may donate electronically through, mail a check to PO Box 44, Gaylord 49734 or drop a gift off to The Refuge office located in the United Way Building at 116 E. Fifth St. in Gaylord.



BLUE DEVIL HOCKEY NIGHT was so fun and provided needed shelter funds and warm clothing for the homeless in Otsego county. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Blue Devil Hockey Team that shows up BIG not only on the ice but in the heart! Thank you! Blue Devils for “facing off” with homelessness in your community.


THANK YOU TO BOYNE PUBLIC SCHOOLS! Students appeared at the Refuge Office this winter bearing bags of warm winter items including hand tied blankets, hats, gloves and more. We are humbled by their decision to adopt a non-profit out of their own county as an expression of their concern for the homeless of northern Michigan.


Refuge Board Members Ray and Kathy Rivers and Ron Borowiak sort warm clothing, including coats, hats and gloves that were donated by Bob Wright to help the homeless stay warm this winter.

Refuge Board Member Kathy Musto sorts and fills bags with paper and other products. These helpful gifts allow Refuge clients to have what they need to open cans, warm up and enjoy food, often received from the Otsego Food Pantry, in their hotel rooms – saving them money and ensuring them nourishment. Big shout out to Richard and Doreen Ostrander and the good people of St. Mary Cathedral for their heartwarming and essential gifts including gift cards, paper products, personal care products and other miscellaneous items. So far this shelter season at least 92 households including many children have received housing and other support, including these products and other warm items.


Judi joins Kathy to sort recent clothing items, lovely quilts and scarves, and other items collected by the residents of Alten Zimmer to be shared with our clients. We are so grateful to all who have helped us to provide warmth and safety to our clients this shelter season.

THANKS to Many Generous Supporters

The Refuge is blessed to have many individual donors who have for so many years made sure that our mission to help our homeless friends and neighbors was fully funded to meet the current need. That has never been truer than this season as we near the end of another record year. In 3 seasons, the need The Refuge has met has exploded from 28 households in 2021-22
(during pandemic) costing $10,155 to 92 households currently at a cost of $70,000 and climbing. The current season does not end until June 1. We want to take a moment to thank all those individuals and entities that stepped up this shelter season to help us meet the greatest need yet – the Otsego Community Foundation and several of its designated funds, Community Financial FCU, AWAKON FCU, MI Non-Profit Relief Fund, Blue Devil Hockey Team, Northern MI RV, Consumers Energy, Gaylord Kiwanis, and several local faith-related organizations. You made it happen!! Thank you for having a heart for the homeless in our community and the confidence in The Refuge to deliver caring, quality and efficient services to those in need.


There are numerous ways to give back to your community for charitable purposes. For The Refuge, you may contact Judi Doan, Shelter Coordinator, at 989-350-8231 if you would like to find out how you can help, including what types of support products (and how many) are needed during the shelter season. You can always write a check or make a credit card gift on our website as a tax deductible direct donation (, give a gift as part or all of a required IRA annual distribution,
as a legacy gift in your will, ask your employer if the employer has any kind of “match” program for employee charitable gifts, encourage your local religious or civic organizations to consider directly supporting or encouraging members to jointly support local non-profit organizations, and last, participate in opportunities customers have to give through invoices for services, like
utilities. The People Fund of Great Lakes Energy is a great example of an opportunity for customers to “round-up” their monthly utility bills to the next dollar. Funds received are used to make grants to local charitable organizations in local communities across the GLE northern Michigan service area. The Refuge and other groups in Otsego have been recipients of the support of the GLE People Fund in the past. If you are a customer, you can find out more/enroll at





If you know of someone who needs housing services, please call The Refuge Office at 989-732-8929 and ask for The Refuge or submit a confidential referral on this website. Thank you for your assistance.

What Do We Do?

People in need can complete an online “Request for Help” or call 989.350.8231 (ask for The Refuge). Family, friends and others can make a confidential referral for help if they know or suspect someone is homeless. 


Change Lives

We provide overnight emergency shelter in Otsego County during the colder months – moving individuals from cars, tents, or other living arrangements, to safe accommodations.


Help to Guide


Homeless services are available but few know how to access them. The Refuge acts as “navigator” to help individuals find the resources they need and to create a “Moving Forward Plan” so they can go from homeless to housed.

Stones of Meaning

Provide Hope


We provide breathing room - a rest from the stress of homelessness - so individuals can concentrate on next steps to end their homelessness.


Provide Stability


We provide housing until clients can, working their Moving Forward Plan, get themselves started on a new positive path.

In Gratitude

Over the years, the Refuge has enjoyed the financial support of so many - area churches, friends and businesses providing gifts of money and in-kind services. We are so grateful for the continuing assistance over the past few years of various funds of the Otsego Community Foundation.


In 2021, The Barbara and Frank Rock Family Fund of OCF generously provided funding so we could re-establish, expand, and update this website. Thank you all.

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