Macomb County program gets homeless off the streets

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More than 1,000 people are homeless in Macomb County. Now a unique program is getting people off the streets and into homes of their own.

Marcus Baldwin is 42, homeless and in a wheelchair. His right leg was amputated two years ago.

"About four o'clock in the morning I was picked up by a trash truck in a dumpster, put in the back of a trash truck and crushed six times," he said.

It was the day before Thanksgiving 2016. Marcus had nowhere to go and had been sleeping in a dumpster behind a church in Mount Clemens when it was emptied into a garbage truck and he was crushed.

"Now he's in a wheelchair and there was a week there was no church to take the shelter," said Paul Cerwin. "And I didn't want to see that happen again this year. And that's why we got together as a team to take a week."

Cerwin's church in Warren is part of the Macomb County Warming Center - a rotating homeless shelter that's hosted by area churches each week from November through April - except for that week that Marcus was nearly killed.

That's why Paul and his co-workers wanted to help.

"It was getting together to do something that actually was going to matter to people," said Cerwin.  "We provided over 350 meals in the week - 350 dinners. It went great - everybody did a great job.

Dozens of workers from the MIBA plant in Sterling Heights - hosted the homeless shelter for an entire week at Renewal Church in Warren and their company based in Austria and even donated $10,000 to the warming center.

"My hope here is to get more companies involved," he said. "We've actually got a couple people from the warming center who might be applying for employment with us."

Employment is another big part of what the warming center is trying to do, at the Ray of Hope Day Center in Mount Clemens - helping people find and apply for jobs. 

People like Kenneth Riley are no longer homeless and determined to stay that way.

"(I was) homeless on the street, been there, done that," he said. "Most people can't do that - they get very depressed - a lot of things go on and they just give up. A place like this, they work with you, they help you find a job, they help you find a place. But on the other end you have to do some work, too."

And the Ray of Hope Day Center is there to help make that happen.

"What we do, too, if people are looking for work we give them bus tickets until their first paycheck," said Kathleen Goodrich.

Help that's essential to moving forward and for people like Marcus, still struggling get back on track, it's not just the help - but the kindness - that counts... among the needs of the homeless.

"I would just say more housing resources, more food pantries, more clothing, basically more donations from the community - more help from the community - and more people just being more sympathetic," Baldwin said.