Better Together celebration raises $45,000+ to fight poverty and homeless in metro Detroit
Fireworks lit up the sky June 30, capping off a festive evening at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac. Hundreds of volunteers, supporters and friends gathered under a big tent for the Better Together celebration, marking the official merger of Lighthouse and South Oakland Shelter. With support from event sponsor, Flagstar Bank, the crowd helped to raise more than $45,000 to aid those struggling with hunger, poverty and homelessness in metro Detroit.
“We are not doing enough collectively as a community to respond to poverty and homelessness in our region,” Lighthouse President and CEO Ryan Hertz told the crowd. “That’s what this merger is hoping to respond to. For each and every one of us, there is an opportunity and a responsibility to respond to the needs in our community.”
More than 69,000 people experienced homelessness in Michigan last year alone. Thirteen percent, or 19,000 people, were in metro Detroit. Consider these other sobering statistics:
- Of the 650,000+ residents of southeast Michigan that are food insecure, 155,000 of them are children.
- Nearly 1 in 5 Michigan children live in poverty, with household incomes under $24,339 for a family of four.
Lighthouse of Oakland County and South Oakland Shelter were both founded to provide basic needs to the community. Hertz explained how the newly merged Lighthouse will provide a stronger collective response to fight homelessness and poverty.
“We have four strategic pillars of our combined organization,” explained Hertz. “The first one is and always will be to respond to the basic needs of people in our community. The second pillar is for households to achieve stability through programs like our PATH transitional housing program.”
“The third is to change the environment that people are operating in,” added Hertz. “It’s very difficult to exit poverty when you’re spending half of your gross income on your rent.”
Lighthouse will break ground on Coolidge Place in late July, a $15 million affordable housing development in Oak Park co-developed with Southwest Solutions.
“The fourth area is community engagement, where 100 percent of us have to be involved. Part of our mission is to transform our community to be a place where all organizations who provide programming can do so in a better way.”
Other speakers included Oakland County Treasurer, Andy Meisner, whose two young sons kept him company on stage during his speech.
“I think about how I would feel if I was with them out on the street,” Meisner told the crowd. “When I was young, my dad got sick and was not able to work, making us housing insecure. I know what it’s like to feel vulnerable. In Oakland County, it is critical that we take this challenge head on.”
Lighthouse Development Director Russ Russell and US Senator Gary Peters also spoke along with Pontiac City Council President Randy Carter and State Representative Brenda Carter. Fox 2 News anchor/reporter Roop Raj served as the evening’s emcee.
Carter helped found the Oakland County Poverty and Homelessness Task Force that brings together various organizations like Lighthouse to address these issues in our community.
“Homelessness among children in Oakland County is rising at an alarming rate, and we must do something about it,” said Carter. “Our task force feeds information to the Michigan legislative caucus for homelessness and poverty.”
The event included a delicious strolling dinner and open bar. Guests also enjoyed an on-site virtual race simulator and tours of the M1 Classic Car Show. The sounds of revving engines could be heard in the background coming from the concourse track. At sunset, brilliant fireworks wowed the crowd. It was a thrilling beginning to a new chapter for SOS and Lighthouse, two organizations, now joined, and better together.
“I’m excited for what’s to come,” Hertz said. “And I look forward to seeing more and more members of our community get involved with our efforts to respond to homelessness and poverty.”
Help Lighthouse reach our fundraising goal of $50,000 by donating here.