The Mustard Seed Shelter

We don’t give women a handout, we give them a hand up.

-Amy Bartels Roe, Director, Mustard Seed Shelter

Donations to the Reverend Noel T. Rudy Endowment — which supports the Mustard Seed Shelter for single homeless women —follow the familiar parable.

Like the tiny mustard seed that grew into a large tree to provide shelter, endowment donations are used to strengthen a community of women and children in Saginaw who otherwise would be without housing or food.

“Through the grace of God and our generous donors, we currently house seven women and three children,” said Amy Bartels Roe, who has been the Mustard Seed director for four years but volunteered at the shelter since it began in 1995. “We basically use the money to pay for household expenses including groceries, heat, transportation and supplies of all kinds. We receive no government assistance, so our guests have no government restrictions to be eligible to come here or stay here.”

But that doesn’t mean there are no rules. Roe explained that guests must meet an important criterion: “We help people who want to help themselves.”

The residents in their own words tell stories of how their lives have followed the pattern of the mustard seed, arriving at the shelter with little hope but branching out to become women full of courage and determination.

Tiffany, a drug addict for 25 years, said she is finally turning her life around after failed attempts in numerous treatment centers and even jail. “I don’t know where I would be without the Mustard Seed,” she said. “Since I have been here my life has been nothing but blessings. They didn’t give up on me giving up.”

Shaniqua was homeless and addicted to alcohol in New York City before she arrived with the help of a friend. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve come to terms with my emotions. It is wonderful having other supportive women to help.”

Irene became homeless when she was let go from a job and couldn’t keep up with her bills. She works at the shelter’s office using skills from her earlier employment. “This is home now,” she said, comfortable in the living room talking with other guests.

Susan, who is hearing impaired, slept from couch to couch at friends’ homes and even at McDonald’s before she arrived.  Now her day includes a job at the SVRC Marketplace in downtown Saginaw.

Roe explained that the goal is to prepare women to be self-sufficient enough to live on their own. The average stay is three to six months. Guests receive a variety of services including recovery and crisis resolution, counseling, parenting training, money management and more. Roe assists women obtain additional schooling, jobs and permanent housing.

To read more about the Mustard Seed Shelter, check out our story “A Visitor’s View of Mustard Seed Life“!


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