Two longtime metro Detroit nonprofits – both dedicated to alleviating homelessness and poverty in southeast Michigan – have announced plans to join forces to become a stronger champion for individuals and families in need.
Lathrup Village-based South Oakland Shelter and Pontiac-based Lighthouse of Oakland County have more than 75 years of combined experience serving impoverished metro Detroiters. On Monday, SOS CEO Ryan Hertz assumed leadership responsibilities for both nonprofits. He will serve as acting CEO of Lighthouse indefinitely while a merger plan is finalized.
“We believe that bringing our organizations together will offer a broader and stronger response to economic disparity that will greatly benefit those we serve,” said Hertz. “I am truly excited to take on this new role.”
Together, a combined SOS and Lighthouse will be better positioned to:
- Respond to the immediate basic needs of those experiencing poverty.
- Work with economically challenged households to establish longer-term stability.
- Address the environmental factors that reinforce economic disparity, such as food security, housing affordability and access to transportation.
- Engage, educate and empower our community to ensure all people have access to a better quality of life.
Since becoming CEO of SOS in May 2010, Hertz has worked with his dedicated board and staff to dramatically expand the organization’s scope, providing emergency shelter, rental assistance, affordable housing development, supportive service solutions and crowdfunding technologies that have helped thousands of displaced people get back on their feet and find a renewed sense of purpose. Hertz also serves as board president for Spero Housing Group and the Alliance for Housing, board chair for the Lathrup Village DDA, and as a board member of Chabad of Greater Downtown Detroit and BBYO Michigan Region.
The leadership change and planned merger come after months of discussions about the benefits of joining forces and the planned departure of CEO Rick David, who led Lighthouse for 3.5 years. His last day was Jan. 10, 2019. The boards of both organizations approved the plan for Hertz to become acting Lighthouse CEO and for merger talks to move forward.
“We are pleased to welcome Ryan Hertz in this new capacity,” said Lighthouse board chair John Townsend. “Under his leadership, SOS has made great strides. Long-term, we look forward to a stronger combined organization that improves the quality of services we provide, expands our service area and streamlines operations. This is a win-win-win for SOS, Lighthouse and the entire community.”
All current staff at SOS and Lighthouse will continue in their roles; current compensation and benefits will be retained for all employees. There are no immediate plans to alter any programs.
“The ultimate goal of joining forces is to create a larger, more robust and multifaceted organization to focus on human services and a stronger response to poverty,” Hertz explained. “This plan will enable us to have a larger impact in our communities and better situate us to target the higher-need areas of hunger, homelessness and housing.”
There is a critical need for improved services in southeast Michigan. According to a 2017 study by the Food Bank Council of Michigan, nearly 1 in 5 Michigan children live in poverty (21%), with household incomes under $24,339 for a family of four. In metro Detroit alone, more than 20,000 people – including many families with children – are facing homelessness.
We will keep you updated as plans move forward.