NEIGHBORS: Samaritan Center Offers One-Stop Shop for Services

Falla Collins waited patiently for a workshop to begin that would offer tips on interviewing for a prospective job as well as clothing for the interview.

“(Employers) look at how you dress and carry yourself,” said the 36-year-old Detroiter. She recently was injured in an auto accident and is now able to work again, she said.

“I already have an interview to work in customer relations,” she said while sitting in the Jackets for Jobs offices in the Holy Cross Samaritan Center on the city’s east side on Conner near Warren.

The center is home to 70 agencies that offer everything from mental health counseling to job training to obtaining a Detroit Identification card to haircare and healthcare. Jackets for Job provides clothing for women seeking employment. It has also been home to ARISE Detroit! for the past seven years.

Armed with a $5 million budget, the center strives to provide help to the 1,500 people who daily visit the bustling building that formerly was home to the Mercy Hospital complex, said Mark Owens, executive director of the center.

“We want to be a one-stop (site) for community service,” he said. “We are not a really big agency but we have a really big mission.”

Owens said the agencies, businesses and services housed in the center range from having one or two employees to as many as 150. They all share the same goal of helping whomever comes their way, he said.

“Most of the people who come here are in dire straits,” Owens said. “We have to be there to help them.”

SER Metro, a jobs training program, and Holy Cross Services opened the center in 2001 with a goal of turning it into a hub for educational, recreational and social activities as well as for healthcare and community services.

Owens said his annual budget may seem large but really isn’t when it comes to helping people in need. For instance, the center’s annual water bill is $400,000, he said.

But by banding together to offer services in one location, the center’s agencies are able to have the financial impact of $50 million, Owens said.

A visitor to the center seeking help could walk away with valid ID, job training, a job interview or mental health counseling or supervised living quarters.

The center’s fourth floor houses the Samaritan Manor Advantage and Living Center, which offers senior housing, rehabilitation services and skilled nursing services for more than 100 residents. Although most of its tenants operate during regular business hours, the Samaritan Manor is a 24-hours operation, seven days a week.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Disparity Solutions and Equity partnered with the center in 2016 to offer a vending machine containing children’s books. The center also did a study on residents’ use of the Samaritan center.

“Twenty percent of the people went to four or more partner organizations,” said Jennifer Teller, program manager of the U-M center. “That tells you they are meeting their mission of being a one-stop resource.”

“It was satisfying to see that the Samaritan Center visitors and partners all were on the same page,” Teller said.

Owens appreciates the center’s accolades, but he said there is always more to be done. He would like to expand counseling for those with substance abuse issues, especially those addicted to opiates like heroin.

“It is not getting enough attention,” Owens said. “We are seeing people come in for help that we have never seen before. They look like deer caught in the headlights. It is a serious issue.”

Meanwhile, Antaeja Brown, a 29-year-old Detroiter, was using the center to continue to find a job after visiting down south for a month. Her grandfather previously received care in the supervised living quarters on the upper level of the center.

“It takes some of the pressure off,” Brown  said of the center’s services. “It makes it easier.”

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