A place to call home

Our Brothers' Keeper opens for the season

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA, LAKE COUNTIES — As the weather chills, Our Brothers' Keeper (OBK) residents Jessica Brinkert and Justin Ritter said they are grateful to have a place where they and their three children can stay together during difficult times.

"This is a huge blessing for us," Brinkert said. "It's nice to be able to have something open up and to have somewhere to go while we're in that transition period."

OBK is a homeless shelter which helps those in need. However, July 9, the shelter had closed its doors due to lack of funding — formally reopening for the winter season on Nov.1 with a "grand re-opening."

"It's been heart-wrenching to, just about daily, turn people away," OBK executive director Troy Landis said. "It's a breath of fresh air to be able to say, 'Hey, come on in' and know from here through the harsh winter months, these people are going to be OK."

Currently open from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, OBK has 36 beds total and helps about 20 to 25 people on average per night, according to Landis.

Landis also said the shelter is the only homeless shelter in Mecosta, Osceola, Lake and Newaygo county which is open to housing men, women and children.

With three children of their own, Brinkert and Ritter will be able to not only stay together, but stay in the family rooms provided by OBK.

"The family room is nice," Ritter said. "I was worried about us being put in different areas."

Though OBK is open for the winter season, Landis said the goal is to raise enough money so the shelter can help people year round, noting how long the process sometimes is for someone who's experiencing homelessness to find their footing again.

In light of this, the goal for OBK is to raise $200,000 to $250,000.

"I think OBK is such an important cause for the community," OBK advocate Dolores Horan said. "Our purpose in life is to help people, give them a positive outlook on life and to make them happy. To have people come in and at least know they'll be safe and their children will be safe during their time here."

As well as accepting funds, OBK, according to Horan, always is accepting volunteers or items for donation.

"I'm feeling really blessed OBK opened up when it did," Brinkert said. "It was nice because we didn't have anywhere. We were running out of money and running out of places to stay. Not too many people let you crash on their couch when you have three kids with you. So, it's nice to have that little bit of light at the end of the tunnel."

Those interested in learning more about OBK and donating their time or money, can visit obkshelter.org or search "Our Brothers' Keeper Shelter" on Facebook.

"These people need help, and we've all been there. It could happen to any of us," Horan said. "Now, it's our turn to come and give back."

Items accepted for donation may include:

• Toilet paper

• Food items, fresh or packaged

• Trial size personal hygiene items

• Household items

• Clothing, coats, hats and mittens

Any excess items will be donated to other local shelters or non-profit facilities in need.