Berrien County’s lone women, family shelter hosts community open house

Published 8:13 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

BENTON HARBOR — A local nonprofit recently offered community members a first-hand look at Berrien County’s only women and family homeless shelter.

Emergency Shelter Services, 185 E. Main St. Suite 103, Benton Harbor, hosted an open house event for its women and family homeless shelter located at 645 Pipestone Street, Benton Harbor. 

The shelter is a three-story, nine-bedroom and five-bathroom house built in the 1870s donated to ESS by the J.N. Klock family in 1979. The house became a 28-bed facility where women and families receive support to move into stable housing.

The open house allowed guests to see the space as well as the improvements made possible by last year’s inaugural “Love Your Shelter” campaign.

Last year’s inaugural campaign raised $100,000 to cover necessary repairs to the shelter, including foundation work, plumbing, flooring, bathroom updates and more.

“It was a very good, successful event,” said ESS Executive Director Reshella Allen-Hawkins. “We wanted to bring back the donors from last year’s Love Your Shelter fundraising campaign. “We didn’t raise enough money to do everything that we needed to, so we wanted to bring back our sponsors and people in the community so they can see the upgrades and the work that has been done. We were just excited to just show them that we appreciate their giving and to let them see the repairs that were made.”

This year’s campaign, which will be conducted throughout the month of February, aims to raise funding for the next phase of repairs and renovations for the shelter, which will consist of kitchen renovations, new windows, security upgrades and the purchase of generators.

In 2008, ESS officially became Berrien County’s Housing Assessment and Resource Agency. The organization implements and manages strategic programs to prevent homelessness for women and families in Berrien County while also providing support and resources to help community members become self-sufficient.

ESS works with agencies around the county, including the Berrien Community Foundation, the City of Niles and the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency.

Hawkins said that visitors were impressed with the shelter and the services it provides.

“They were so excited,” she said. “They were thankful and grateful that, for one, we invited them here to come and see the work that has been done and that the money did not go to waste. The money was well spent. Not only that, but to show that we have people that are still serving this community and serving it with grace. That’s big right in the day and time that we’re in right now.  The atmosphere was amazing. There was excitement and a willingness to do more. So that’s what this event has done.”

Readers looking to donate to ESS can do so online at, or by check made out to Emergency Shelter Services, Inc. mailed to 645 Pipestone St. Benton Harbor, MI 49022.