A step forward for Center
South Bend's Center for the Homeless has been so successful in tackling the complex challenges of the community's neediest members that it may indeed be the Miracle on South Michigan Street.
Rarely has a collaboration of charitable and social service providers been so extensive or run so well — and the center has national awards to prove it.
The organization has served more than 44,000 men, women and children since it opened its doors in 1988.
So it may have seemed like another cruel consequence of the recession a few weeks ago when the center announced that it would begin asking clients to pay a few dollars for room and board.
While it's true the new policy will ensure the center's precious resources are spread further, the change is a sensible one for any economy. It will help young women with babies, young men not yet navigating on their own and older adults down on their luck practice important lessons of responsibility, as well.
Beginning April 1, the center began charging its guests up to $5 a day for food. On May 1, the center also established a $1-a-day "program fee" that includes housing to guests staying more than 45 days. Those who stay more than 180 days are asked to pay $3.33 a day.
Many center residents have some resources including government assistance set aside for the poor. Residents, for example, can turn in food stamps to cover their meals. But the center has pledged that no one will be turned away — those who can't afford the costs are being asked to earn their keep by doing chores at the center.
Jacqueline Kronk, the center's director of development and public relations, said the measure reinforces the center's mission to get its clients back on track and become accountable for their own welfare.
Not everyone is happy with the new policy, of course. But to us, it seems like a prudent and compassionate evolution of the center's work to break the cycle of homelessness.