Homeless Angels

Rachel Feighner, left, and Homeless Angels Director Shelly Ochodnicky, stand Friday on the handicap ramp Feighner Boat Lifts & Docks recently donated to the Owosso homeless shelter, set to open Oct. 1.

OWOSSO — As Owosso Homeless Angels officials put the finishing touches on Shiawassee County’s first permanent homeless shelter, a new opening date of Oct. 1 has been announced.

One holdup — officials at one point hoped the opening would take place in June — has been the need for a handicap ramp just inside the shelter’s main entrance.

Charlotte-based Feighner Boat Lifts & Docks, which is constructing its own factory location in Woodhull Township, came to the rescue, responding to a “call to action” by Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership President/CEO Justin Horvath. The company recently installed a large aluminum frame ramp with non-slip decking at the shelter.

“We’re new to the area, and we wanted to put our best foot forward,” business co-owner Rachel Feighner said. “We’re happy to provide something of use to our neighbors.”

“We wouldn’t be where we are without Feighner donating this,” Owosso Homeless Angels Director Shelly Ochodnicky said. “(It speaks to) the amazing relationship we have with this business in our county.”

Feighner said the company has built many ramps that conform to Americans With Disabilities rules over the years.

Another delay in opening Owosso Homeless Angels arose when two hot water heaters donated by American Plumbing in Lansing turned out to be electric-powered when gas heaters were needed for the shelter, Ochodnicky said. The electric heaters will be changed out with gas ones this week, she said.

When a nonprofit shelter like Homeless Angels, which relies solely on donations, operates on a shoestring budget, Ochodnicky said, “we have to work around the donating company’s schedules. We’re trying to create partnerships that work.”

It was also discovered that the kitchen didn’t have sufficient electrical power to support equipment such as its eight-burner stove and two ovens, so Consumers Energy had to add a special service, she said.

Finally, because of the time of a meeting with the county health department, the shelter’s kitchen won’t be in operation until about 90 days after the opening, she said.

Local organizations have stepped up to help provide food to shelter residents in the meantime, including the Salvation army, Korner Pub and Wrought Iron Grill.

Many other renovations have been completed in the 3,000-square-foot shelter, located at 218 N. Park St., including plumbing, drywall, fresh paint, drop ceilings, bathrooms, security cameras and indoor sprinkler system.

The shelter will sleep up to 24. The building contains sleeping rooms for men, women and families, bathroom facilities, a large common room, food and diaper pantries, warehouse, office space and other rooms. Office areas are available for the support agencies Ochodnicky said she hopes will keep regular hours there.

Homeless Angels raised enough donations to get the shelter up and running.

Now the focus is on collecting donations for the shelter’s expected $150,000 per year in operational and maintenance expenses, and recruiting volunteers. Karen Small, a former Walls of Warmth worker, has been hired as the volunteer coordinator.

Donors can give by purchasing a Home Depot gift card and mailing it to Homeless Angels, 218 N. Park St., Owosso, MI 48467. Or they can sponsor a room at the shelter at a cost of $3,000 per year or $5,000 for two years.

Monetary donations in any amount can be made to the Owosso Campus by visiting homelessangels.org.

A popular form of giving is through the organization’s “Sleep Over Safely” program, in which the sponsor donates $19 each month (62 cents per day), covering the cost of an overnight stay. To sign up, visit sleepoversafely.com.

According to statistics offered by Homeless Angels, whose main shelter is in Lansing: In Michigan in 2018, eight out of every 10,000 residents were homeless; 8,351 residents experienced homelessness on a given night; 756 residents were chronically homeless; and 3,142 families with children didn’t have a place to live.

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