Berrien County’s only homeless shelter raising money for repair

Published 4:00 pm Friday, January 22, 2021

BERRIEN COUNTY — Emergency Shelter Services runs the only women and family homeless shelter in Berrien County. Right now, the road in front of the shelter on Pipestone Street in Benton Harbor is blocked off due to a major repair the shelter is now facing.

“A sewage line broke at the shelter on Friday,” said Reshella Hawkins, acting executive director for ESS. “We got somebody out to look at it. We thought it was just something we could have a plumbing company do.”

Unfortunately, the sewage line was broken and now needs to be fully replaced. To replace the line, which runs under the street in front of the shelter, will come at the cost of $25,000 — a heavy cost to the nonprofit organization.

The shelter resides in a large house built in the 1800s. Hawkins said this is the first time it has had a major repair like this come up.

While putting people experiencing homelessness into a motel is an option, Hawkins said it is ideal to be in a home setting, where residents can do things independently like use the kitchen to prepare meals.

“We want them to be able to feel like they’re home,” Hawkins said.

Alicia Coultas, permanent supportive housing supervisor for ESS, is already blown away by the support the shelter is receiving.

“We just posted on our Facebook page asking the communities to help us with the huge cost,” Coultas said. “We posted it less than 24-hours ago, and we have received over $4,000. It’s crazy how much the community is coming together.”

As of Thursday afternoon, ESS had raised more than $4,300 on its Emergency Shelter Services Inc. Facebook page.

The Facebook page is one way community members can help the shelter, Coultas said. Community members who are looking for ways to support ESS with this repair can also make a donation at, mail checks to 645 Pipestone St., Benton Harbor, MI 49022, as well as shop at the ESS Resale Store, located at 205 W. Main St., in Benton Harbor.

“There’s a lot of different facts that come along with ESS,” Coultas said. “We also have our administrative office, called The Connection, and our ESS Resale Store. At The Connection, we assist people getting out of homelessness. We work with people at the shelter and through outreach experiencing homelessness in the Berrien County area.”

ESS assists with housing in the form of security deposits and rent assistance programs.

“It depends on the situation of the person and how vulnerable they are in the community at the time,” Coultas said.

Right now, though, Hawkins said the focus is on the shelter.

“The shelter is very vital because it’s the only shelter we have to house our homeless population,” she said.

The bill for ESS and the shelter is due on Feb. 19.

Those with questions are encouraged to reach out to Hawkins at ESS through her email,, or at (269) 925-1131 ext. 101.