Program aims at battling homelessness in Niles area

Published 10:31 pm Thursday, August 12, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - One man in Niles is doing his best to get homeless and mentally ill people off the streets and into affordable housing.
Nick Jones is a case worker for the Residential Services of Southwest Michigan Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program.
Residential services offer assistance in the form of group homes, seven of which are located in Niles, community living support, which the PATH program falls under, teaching people "daily living skills," according to program administrator Holly Pomranka.
Residential services also offers a transitional living facility for homeless veterans in Niles at 323 N. Lincoln St., Pomranka said. The program assists mentally ill people who are homeless, or in danger of becoming homeless throughout Berrien County, according to Jones.
Since he began working on the program a year ago, Jones has seen participation grow from 37 individuals in August 2003, to about 60 to date. Jones said that almost a third are from Niles.
Jones attributes the rapid growth of the program due to his involvement with local groups like Harbor Harvest Urban Ministries in Benton Harbor, the Niles Housing Commission, and the Benton Harbor Police Department.
Jones held in-service workshops to raise awareness of the PATH program and to help groups be able to identify potential candidates for the program. Services the program provides include substance abuse counseling for those who need it, financial assistance towards a participant's first month of rent, and job training to help individuals stay off the streets.
Jones also assists participants in obtaining income support services like housing assistance, food stamps, and supplemental income benefits, he said.
Jones pointed out that some of the people he helps develop mental illness as a result of becoming homeless.
Jones began working with the PATH program to supplement his locally filmed western, "The Exodusters," which has been filmed in Niles and South Bend. Jones earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology/Sociology from Indiana University – South Bend, and later earned his master's in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He is currently working on his doctorate of Sociology at Hamilton University through distance learning. After graduating from graduate school, Jones managed a self help program in Milwaukee, but he says his one true passion is film making.
Jones recently finished filming on the campus of Notre Dame and will continue filming in southern Indiana.