Nonprofit hopes to better address needs of homeless residents

NILES – Some mornings at Ferry Street Resource Center, Executive Director Ric Pawloski and Services Coordinator Arqullia Lewis come to work and find random donations of packaged food sitting on the front step of the center.

Donations of canned and boxed food, large amounts of prepared food, and even bags of clothes have also landed in the center’s fenced-in backyard, where some of Niles’ residents experiencing homelessness are staying in tents. Since the privacy fence went up, it has been happening more often.

Pawloski and Lewis are grateful for the willingness of the community to help, but Pawloski is hopeful a more coordinated effort can be arranged to help the residents in need.

“We treasure the donations and willingness to help, but please call and coordinate with us,” Pawloski said. “We want to be good stewards of donations so they do not go to waste.”

A makeshift area for homeless individuals in the backyard of the center, 620 Ferry Street, Niles, has drawn some attention from area residents. The fence provides a bit of shielding for those staying in tents in the back yard, provided by the city of Niles. Also installed in the backyard are picnic tables and a port-a-potty for the residents to use. Many of the residents in the tents have a heat source.

The handful of residents in the backyard of the center span from 18 years old to those in their mid-60s. Pawloski said he works with the residents every day he is at the center.

The center helps connect Niles residents experiencing homelessness to resources to get on a path to employment, recovery and, ultimately, into a situation where they are homed again.

“The goal is to help them not be here,” he said.

Pawloski said meals are now being provided residents three days a week. The city of Niles provides a meal from a local business, and meals from Curly Q’s BBQ and Saylor’s Pizza Port are donated weekly.

Pawloski has seen random donations made to the people experiencing homelessness, and knows sometimes they are items or an excess of food they simply cannot utilize at the time.

“We spend a lot of time with them and are really attuned to their needs,” Pawloski said of the residents in need. “If [community members] can call the center, we can coordinate their donations. We want to maximize the positive impact for them.”

Pawloski encouraged donations to the Ferry Street Resource Center itself. The center is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursdays. It can be reached at (269) 687-9860.

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