As winter progresses, most of us seek refuge and comfort from the elements in our warm homes, surrounded by family and friends. A basic need we may take for granted. Many of our Otsego County neighbors are not as fortunate; secure housing is just out of reach. This is where The Refuge steps in. Established in 2013, The Refuge provides temporary housing for individuals and families and helps them access food and basic services while they work toward finding more permanent housing. They provide essential services for our Otsego County neighbors.  

The Refuge, a trusted partner of the OCF, meets a critical need in our community. In 2023, they applied for a 3-year Sustaining Grant through the Community Grant Program. A Sustaining Grant funds an established program or project that will not change in its size or scope over the grant lifetime. The Refuge was awarded $9,100 per year for three years from The Community Fund of the OCF to continue its mission of providing emergency housing for homeless men, women, and children in Otsego County. This grant will also help clients identify issues causing their homelessness, help them access the local support services they need, and assist them in finding affordable permanent housing.  

“Multi-year grants are particularly helpful for organizations with established operational costs because they give the non-profit both the knowledge of the receipt of future funding but also the ability to offer “match” opportunities to other potential donor organizations.”

-Sue Smith, President of The Refuge

Since October 1, 2023, The Refuge has housed 96 adults and 25 children for a total of 475 nights of lodging. Lodging is the Refuge’s biggest expense, according to Judy Doan, and this is where the Community Foundation funding is spent. 

Even if a family or individual is not given hotel lodging, The Refuge shares important information with everyone they see, connecting them with vital resources. They have an extensive local landlord list, information on Michigan Works, DHHS, NEMCSA, local food pantries, Women’s Resource Center, New Life Pregnancy, and a list of area shelters. Equally important, the Refuge staff listens and cares about the people they serve.  

“I listen to people, hear their questions, ask about their short-term needs and their long-term plans/goals. I empathize and nudge them forward to help themselves by making the most of the options available to them. The Refuge has had a number of successes with families or individuals finding adequate local affordable housing. It takes the whole community to make The Refuge a viable 501 C 3 organization.”

-Judi Doan, Refuge Coordinator

Please view this short video from Sue Smith, President of The Refuge, to learn more about their important work.