She knocked on the church doors not knowing what to expect. She needed help and had no place to turn. Homeless, cold and hungry, she had nothing but the clothes on her back.
She was welcomed to First Presbyterian Church by Lisa Horne, LMSW, who serves as Director of Community Ministry. As a church in the heart of the city, First Presbyterian believes it has an obligation to serve those in need. The Community Ministry program routinely helps Flint residents with food, clothing, personal care and household items. But Tychernises Butler and her 5-year-old daughter needed more.
"While new programs are available to assist families impacted by the water crisis, many agencies have implemented policies that mandate families to verify age, relationship, identity and citizenship by requesting valid and certified documents as proof," explained Horne. "This makes securing services a taxing step for many residents."
Enter the Ministry's Bridge to Access program, a safety net to provide funds for legal documents and transportation. For those seeking water crisis-related services, valid identification is often a minimal requirement and the cost to obtain the documents can be a barrier.
"Oftentimes, people in distressed situations give up because of difficulty navigating social service systems," Horne said. "Many meet the guidelines, but they lack the financial resources to use the services. This project helps to limit some of those unfortunate realities for the people we serve."
Grant funds are helping to secure legal documents like birth records, identification cards or driver's licenses that can range from $10 to $50 each. Local MTA bus passes help people get to the agencies for needed assistance. Up to 400 individuals will be served by the project.
"I just need help for me and my daughter," said Butler. "Lisa is a nice lady. She welcomes people and is respectful. She's helping me so I can access housing through HUD."
"Our doors are open and we hope to reduce some of the stress that families are already experiencing," Horne added.