This past Monday, our team at Audu Real Estate decided to take a fieldtrip. Our foray out of the office took us to Dégagé Ministries, a Christian outreach ministry on 144 South Division Avenue. It was a cold and rainy day, but Marge Parmalee, the Program Director greeted us with a warm smile.
I had heard about the Dégagé Coffehouse ministry shortly after I graduated from college, but was unfamiliar with what the program did. Today, Dégagé Ministries offers it’s patrons, many of whom are homeless and suffer from mental illness, a whole range of social services. The focus of the mission is to ” To reflect the love of Christ to all who come through our doors by building relationships and offering programs that foster dignity and respect.”
Marge graciously toured us through the 5 story facility which includes the basement. On the street level, the ministry has a large room with tables and chairs. Patrons can recieve a warm meal for a minimal fee and some can earn vouchers for meals or other services by doing one of the 40 jobs which the facility offers. We observed individuals in the kitchen cleaning up and others sweeping the floors. Most of the cleaning in the facility is done by those who use the service.
We toured the women’s lounge where Marge indicated that approximately 30 women had slept on mats the night before and received follow up care and counselling. Although empty during our visit, the lounge was spotless and this included the shower and locker area. It was incredible to realise that for these women, this shelter was their only home.
The ministry provides a wide array of support tools such as mailboxes for people who have no address, showers, lockers and laundry facilities, a State ID program and referrals to area professionals such as doctors who offer their services at reduced or minimal rates. And…there’s always the support of Prayer.
Marge shared the story of Karen, a woman who is featured in the latest newsletter for the ministry. Today, through the work of God’s grace, Karen is gainfully employed and has gotten back on her feet. We were reminded that with the economic crisis that is facing our nation, there are many people who are on the verge of falling ‘through the cracks.’
It is sobering to see the impact of the ‘other side’ of the housing crisis. Homelessness is a crisis which impacts not just the individual, but the community. And…the power of community is reflected in the work of ministries like Dégagé in which individuals and business leaders have come together to extend a hand to those who need a loving touch
Dégagé Ministries ~ 144 South Division
Grand Rapids, MI 49503