After receiving from the community, some residents from South Bend's Center for the Homeless are giving back. Dozens of the Center's guests took time to help clean up their neighborhood. It's called the Michigan Street Sweep and about 100 Homeless Center residents participated Monday night. Volunteers focused on Michigan Street, between Ivy Tech College and Monroe Street.
From sweeping, to picking up trash, to more sweeping, a portion of downtown South Bend's Michigan Street is looking a lot tidier these days. “I’d say we've made some progress, nice to get out and enjoy the sun, enjoy the weather,” says Mandy Custard, a volunteer helping pick up trash.
“This is helping the community,” says another volunteer, Chris Traxler. “They help us, we get a lot of donations from people, we want to show them that we're helping clean up this place.”
Homeless Center residents Chris and Mandy say it makes them feel good to help the people and community that have lent them a generous hand; whether it is food, clothing, education or advice. “I came here, left an abusive relationship, they gave me a lot of help, they put me through drug rehab, helped me regain custody of my daughter back,” says Mandy.
“Considering I’ve been taking away from the community for over 15, 16 years, it's time for me to give back,” says Kimmie Fenton, whose on sweeping detail. Fenton is a Homeless Center resident. He says he takes pride in his neighborhood, no matter what his address might be. “So we come out here and clean and we show the people out here in the city that think it's just a homeless shelter, it's not just a shelter, it's a place where we live,” says Fenton. And the Street Sweep isn't just for Homeless Center guests, staff are also teaming up to help with this cleanup. “It's a perfect example of how our guests are hardworking individuals, which is atypical to the stereotype of homelessness,” says Jacqueline Heirman, with the Homeless Center.
“Our guests did everything from raking the cigarette butts out of the gutters to picking up trash outside the bridges, “ says Heirman.
The Center for the Homeless is home to 200 people, including about 60 kids, so it helps many people in our community. If you're interested in helping out the Center, the 2007 Homeward Bound 5-K Walk is at the end of the month. The Sunday, April 29th walk raises money to help local homeless get food, clothing, and other emergency needs. For more information, go to www.cfh.net and click on the link for the walk.