Homelessness Is Not An Adjective
Executive Director familiar with the struggles of shelter’s guests
Our Brother’s Keeper (OBK) shelter is open in Big Rapids serving community members from Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo and Osceola counties. The shelter is open 24 hours a day/7 days a week year round and provides temporary housing along with food and assistance in helping individuals without a home secure a home of their own. Staff work with each guest to address their individual needs.
The Executive Director Nicole Alexander brings a unique and powerful perspective to her work: She and her children experienced homelessness and overcame it.
Reflecting back on the experience, Nicole shared the difficulty and despair that went along with being homeless. “This was a period of time that many would find shameful, embarrassing, and degrading and at the time I must admit that I felt the same way. What a failure I was, what a terrible mother I was, why is this happening to me? Living in a broken pop-up camper with my children was difficult at best. There were many skills that I just didn’t have, I didn’t know how to budget, I didn’t know how to communicate effectively, I had no idea how to navigate life. I was just surviving. Thankfully, I was blessed to have a friend who watched my children while I worked and allowed me to shower at her house every morning.”
“23 years later and through many experiences and life lessons, I am here supporting those that are experiencing homelessness. Programming has become a priority at OBK. The thing about sharing these experiences allows us to tailor our programming to meet the needs of each guest and it allows us to see our guests as people and not just group them together like everyone is the same. Homelessness is a state of being without a permanent residence, not an adjective to describe who a person is.”
What is especially remarkable about Nicole is that she managed to complete her Master’s degree during this challenging time in her life.
Nicole went on to work as the Homeless Program Manager for Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency. She later worked as a Regional Coordinator funded by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency on the Veteran Community Action Team Project coordinating services and programs to assist veterans and their families. Her entire career has been dedicated to serving vulnerable populations.
Nicole’s vast personal and professional experience allows her to relate to those who come to the shelter for care and ultimately guidance. “It is incredibly gratifying to help a person who is feeling hopeless, and even worthless, find their voice. Helping people find jobs and a real home is by far the best thing we do at Our Brother’s Keeper.”
For information regarding the shelter and its programs, go to www.obkshelter.org or contact the shelter at 231-629-8033
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