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  • What services does the Refuge provide?
    Today, The Refuge meets its basic goal to get clients out of the cold by using local hotel rooms. Food is provided through the Otsego County Food Pantry. The Refuge has improved its support services by engaging more experienced staff to help clients navigate community services and, when necessary, to re-locate to other areas or into more permanent housing they have the financial ability to sustain longer term on their own. A significantly larger number of our clients are now located to more permanent housing providing the opportunity for a more sustainable future. During the tornado relief efforts, The Refuge was able to re-house 29 displaced households nearly immediately of learning of their need.
  • What effect has The Refuge homeless shelter program had in Otsego County?
    The Refuge in Otsego County (The Refuge) has started its 10th season. Several local churches helped to establish The Refuge as a non-profit organization when the Friendship Shelter, Otsego’s only homeless shelter, was forced to close in 2013. “The Refuge” - an overnight homeless shelter program rotated among several church facilities for several years. Although intended to be a temporary response until a community-wide response was found, The Refuge remains the only local general housing response to homelessness. Over 10 shelter seasons, the program has provided over 3800 nights of overnight housing and food. During tornado relief efforts, The Refuge provided another 1650 nights of shelter for 29 households making for a ten-year total of just under 5500 overnight stays for just under 500 neighbors.
  • Who are homeless in Otsego County?
    Otsego County has a significant disadvantaged population – 37% of our households are without sufficient income for basic needs - housing, food, health care, transportation, child care, utilities, technology and taxes despite members of some households are working. When we talk about the homeless in our community, we know that 12% live below the Federal Poverty Level - $12,490 per year for a single person and $25,750 for a family of four. We also know another 25% are working but do not have sufficient income to meet all monthly basic expenses. The recent Alice Report identifies the average household income in Otsego County to be less than the average household survival budget for a family of four. We know that many friends and neighbors are bunking in with others and that those who are not currently homeless could be with one financial/personal setback – they are living with barely enough to survive and far from enough to thrive. The Refuge, along with other agencies, provides a safety net. See The ALICE Report at
  • Who does the Refuge Serve?
    The Refuge began as a rotating shelter serving homeless men and women in church facilities. Over time, logistical requirements changed the shelter residents to just men. A significant benefit of using the new motel model has been that The Refuge now has the capability and does house families with children as well as single men and women. Clients are still mostly single adults but in the last five years, The Refuge has been able to house 245 adults and 79 children. All Refuge clients must be connected/living in Otsego County and agree to participate in a “Moving Forward Plan” - tailored to their circumstances - to help them find and retain more permanent housing. For those circumstances where individual housing is not possible, assistance to destinations where family/friends are located or more formal shelter arrangements out of the county are explored. The Refuge works with other social service and medical service agencies, including the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department, to help those in need.
  • What is being done to challenge homelessness in Otsego County?
    The Refuge is engaged in discussions about a community-wide response to homelessness. Simply providing temporary housing is not enough. Otsego County has a significant lack of all kinds of housing, including affordable and low income. The problem of homelessness is a community problem that demands a community response. After the pandemic and the May tornado, we believe the community is ready for that serious discussion.
  • What is the current situation of homelessness in Otsego County?
    Requests for housing to The Refuge are now dramatically higher in Otsego County. Since October 1, The Refuge has already spent more to house those in need than in any previous shelter season since employing hotel rooms. In past years, The Refuge has been able to move clients to more permanent housing in about two weeks; but given that affordable rental housing is nearly non-existent (and made more acute by the tornado), it will take longer to find and that has significantly increased costs.
  • What can you do to help?
    There are two very important ways you can help. Financial Donation - You can make a financial donation through this website (see “donate” tab) or you may write a check to “The Refuge” and return it to P.O. Box 44, Gaylord, MI 49734. A gift of $50 covers a one-night stay in a hotel and a gift of $350 covers an entire week. A gift in any amount makes a difference. Housing - If you have existing rental property or property you are willing to rent, we want to talk to you. Our inventory of affordable housing is very low. You may contact Chris at 989-732-8929 (asking for housing resources) to explore your potential participation.
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