Jessep Magoon doesn't believe that everyone who holds up a cardboard sign and asks for help is doing so to support a drug or alcohol addiction.
That's why Magoon asked a friend to create a sign for his grassroots cause that helps redefine perceptions of the homeless.
In mid-April, Magoon's sign for the Homeless Angels
found a permanent home in the window of their first brick and mortar office.
"It fit perfectly," says Magoon of the portable sign he has used for outreach events. "It was one of those fate things—that this place was meant to be."
Magoon co-founded the Homeless Angels with Mike Karl in November 2013. The idea, he says, is to provide a resource that bridges the gap between the homeless and local agencies.
Until April, the Homeless Angels was run from the streets. Volunteers met in parks, parking lots, churches or other supportive organizations to coordinate outreach and "street teams" to help Greater Lansing's homeless.
"Since the beginning, our big focus has been street outreach and building relationships with people who might otherwise fall through the cracks," says Magoon who is also a student at Lansing Community College. "But since we didn't have a home base it was hard to do client intake. We did everything by laptop and cell phone, and knew as we got more innovative we would need an office."
Directly across from the State capitol, the 900-square foot office at 328 W. Ottawa Street is easy-to-access, wired for Internet, has ample storage space for a food pantry and supplies, and is staffed by a core group of about 10 volunteers. There's even a washer and dryer on site to clean cloths or blankets for homeless clients. Rent, Magoon says, is funded by donations made through GoFundMe,
with other services supported through community fundraisers and donations.
Magoon says his drive to build the volunteer non-profit is fueled by his past struggles with addiction. He finds inspiration, too, in the depth of understanding held by Karl, who previously lived on the streets.
"We know there are underlying factors and a story behind why people are homeless," says Magoon. "Our hope is to shed a positive light on a negative situation, and to show the community that the homeless are not just stereotypes, but people needing help to get them back into society."
Source: Jessep Magoon, Co-founder, Homeless Angels
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor