Surviving Homelessness in the Upper Peninsula

Robert Stevens-croppedWhat’s got volunteer Robert Stevens worked up on the morning of the Mobile Food Pantry at the Luce County Community Resource and Recreation Center (“The Link,” for short) is not the insistent rain or the cold, it’s the thought that the federal government might deepen the cuts to food assistance that have already fallen hard on families in his community.

“They have to realize that what they’re doing is hurting families,” Stevens says. “We’re going to have a need for more food for people to survive a month.”

Stevens knows about survival. In 1991, he moved with his family from Florida to Paradise on the coast of Lake Superior, seeking a slower pace of life. After moving to Newberry, he began volunteering with Link, providing IT assistance and working with students at the drop-in program. Then he ran into trouble.

“I ended up being homeless for two weeks,” he says. It was November, and in the Upper Peninsula, where temperatures can dip below freezing as early as September, being homeless can be fatal.

When Mary Archambeau, Link’s director, found out, she connected Stevens with the right programs, and helped him find housing. She even helped him move his furniture in.

Mary Archambeau (back right) with volunteers at Link's Mobile Food Pantry in November 2013.
Mary Archambeau (back right) with volunteers at The Link’s Mobile Food Pantry in November 2013.

Stevens continues to volunteer at The Link, and at his church, where he plays the organ. “He’s giving back now,” Archambeau says.

“Things are going really well now,” Stevens testifies. “I survived, and it’s made me appreciate it more because any time you could lose it all.”

The Link is one of more than 1,200 food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters working with Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank to help those in need. At a time when public support for those in need is decreasing, it’s all the more important for individuals to take responsibility for their neighbors’ wellbeing.

“Newberry itself is like a brotherhood,” Stevens says: People take care of each other.

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