KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - The Kalamazoo Gospel Mission has seen a marked increase in demand. Now, the shelter is working to expand its service to the homeless -- but it's having a rough time raising the money needed to do so.
Sharon Howard never expected to be homeless and never thought she'd be sleeping at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. She spent years working at the same job and raised four kids.
"I thought things were going pretty good and I heard that you are only one paycheck away from being homeless and I thought, 'That's not me,'" said Howard.
But when the job disappeared, she found her unemployment checks were not big enough to cover the rent. When they stopped altogether, Howard was out of choices.
And she's not alone.
"We are at record numbers," Pastor Michael Brown, executive director of the mission, told 24 Hour News 8.
This year, the mission has seen a huge increase in demand from women. Last year, 1,220 nights of lodging were supplied for women. This year, that number has already grown to 3,245.
"The increase started two or three months ago," explained Brown. "We started seeing a marked increase in the numbers of people we were serving. We have gone from serving 500 meals a day to serving 700 meals a day."
As buildings age and donations decrease, the increase in demand couldn't be happening at a worse time.
"We are at a place now where people are sleeping in the hallways and that's why this new building is so important," said Brown.
The mission is undertaking a capital fund drive to build more space -- but so far, the cash has been tough to come by.
"I just had a talk with my director of finance this morning and she told me donations for this month are not good," said Brown.
Sharon Howard said it is the programs at the mission that will eventually help her find employment. But if the facilities can't keep up with demand, eventually someone may have to be turned away.
"You never know when you will be in that situation," she said.
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
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