February 20, 2020

Lydia’s Gate: a safe haven for women and children

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MIO — Lydia’s Gate is a faith-based 501c3 short-term 12-bed homeless shelter for women and their children up to the age of 16 located on S. Deyarmond Street in Mio. It is currently housing seven adults and two children. 

“They come from all over the place,” said Sarah Belanger, Executive Director of Lydia’s Gate. “We are pretty low-barrier when it comes to who we will take. They don’t have to be a resident of Oscoda County. And, they will come straight from the hospital if they don’t have anywhere else to go, if they  were kicked out of their house or if they left a bad relationship. As different as everyone is, their stories as to why they are here are just as different.”

Guests are allowed to stay up to 90 days if they meet the requirements such as doing daily chores, their own laundry and  must apply for three houses a day if they have an income or three jobs a day if they have no income. No drugs or alcohol allowed. “We do have laptops available with internet they can use, so they don’t have to leave the house to do what they need to do,which is pretty unique,” Belanger said. “ Most shelters make you leave during the day and we try to not be like that.”

Lydia’s Gate was started by Anita Bills after she volunteered at His Love Family Resources. Bills would often run across women and children who were homeless and had no place to go during her time there. “She felt in her heart that she needed to do something,” Belanger stated. “She believed she was in that place for a reason.” And, the idea for Lydia’s Gate was born. It officially opened Sep.22, 2012, housing nine guests on the first night. 

The shelter is entirely donation based and Belanger said they receive most of their support from churches and fundraisers. Their latest fundraiser was an angel tree at Christmas that raised over $2,000 and their main fundraiser, which garnishes nearly a quarter of their annual budget, is coming up in April. More information about the April fundraiser will appear in the Herald in the future. 

Lydia’s Gate is currently governed by a volunteer board of directors including Mike Wigle, chairman, and board members Lori Burzlaff, Pam Blamer, Martha Larrison, Dorothy Belanger and Peggy Robertson. 

Lydia’s Gate accepts all types of donations including gently used furniture, bedding, dishes, clothing for women and children, toys, cleaning supplies and food. Belanger did ask that the furniture not be too heavy and easy to move because it is usually a few women who help move the furniture. For those who would like to donate, contact Sarah at 989-826-5588.You can also check the shelter’s need list available at lydiasgate.org.

 For those needing shelter, contact Sarah to see if a bed is available at 989-826-5588. You do not have to be a resident of Oscoda County to stay at the shelter.

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