In Muskegon County, the rate of eviction is 4 times higher than the national average! In response, community leaders have come together to address this community issue, creating the Eviction Prevention Program (EPP). Started as a pilot project a year ago and supported by funding from the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, EPP gives families facing eviction the possibility of an “out”, the hope for stable housing



“I just wanted to say that this was one of THE BEST fund-raiser and educational events that we have EVER attended! I didn’t even know that it existed!” Our annual “Taste & See” Event marks the transition between these two seasons, and as such, we want to take one last look back, to savor what was tasted and seen at this year's event.

2018 Annual Report!

2018 Annual Report!

When our board and staff attempt to identify the reason why Community enCompass exists, we end up with phrases like “Neighborhood Transformation,” and “SHALOM in the City.” Lofty dreams for a rag-tag team of people who are often stumbling towards good. The year-end process of digging through data always makes me wonder..... how will we know once we’ve arrived? How will we know when our neighborhoods have been transformed and we taste SHALOM?

Not just a rehab, a REDEMPTION!

Not just a rehab, a REDEMPTION!

 “When we look at a house like this we see history, we see story, we see family, we see value and hope. We see good bones.”  A house like this makes no sense to any real estate investor.  It’s not a house you can flip for profit. The current real estate values in Muskegon's core city neighborhoods don’t make a house like this profitable in any way. It took close to $60,000 in materials and necessary contracted work to bring this house back to life, and that's not accounting for the countless hours of volunteer work that have been put in.

HEALTH and POVERTY in Muskegon

HEALTH and POVERTY in Muskegon

15% of Muskegon County residents have a certified disability, 25% higher than the national average. 41% of Muskegon county residents live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty level,  22%* higher than national average. These numbers alone are sobering, so this month we are taking the opportunity to educate ourselves about the links between poverty and health, health and poverty.



Redlining is the historical practice of denying services to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas. Redlining in Muskegon resulted in some neighborhoods being underdeveloped, buildings being abandoned, businesses failing, increasing social problems and the removal of any incentives to invest.

4th Street Facelift

Phew: What a summer!  So much work has been done.  One of the highlights this summer has been our “4th Street Facelift” Project.  Community enCompass was 1 of 10 organizations across the state to be awarded a $50,000 grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for neighborhood enhancement projects. Competition was hot with 36 projects across the state applying, and the grant was a catalyst for neighborhood organizing in a powerful way.

Brand new housing opportunity in Muskegon Heights.

525 West Summit Avenue, Muskegon 49444

525 West Summit Avenue, Muskegon 49444

The former Roosevelt school has been newly renovated into new, high-quality one and two bedroom apartment homes. The community boasts large, beautifully lit, spacious living and common areas, with touches of the buildings school-roots running throughout. Restoration offers a community garden, playground, and large living and community spaces with tons of natural light.

Applications can be picked up at Community enCompass' office. Applications can be picked at the reception window during the following hours:

Monday 9AM to 1PM
Tuesday 9AM to 1PM
Wednesday 9AM to 1PM

Your application CANNOT be returned if you do not have ALL of the following items:

  • Homeless verification.

  • Identification card.

  • Social Security cards fro ALL household members.

  • Birth certificates for ALL household member.

  • Proof of income.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to come to the office and speak with our receptionist.

Welcome to 1312 Ransom

Many owners and renters have called this house home over the past 104 years.  First in 1912 were the Rexford’s: William, his wife Edna and their daughter Ruth.  Mr. Rexford was a conductor for the railroad, his wife a clerk and daughter a student. They lived here for 10 years before selling the house to Frederick A. Bailey. Bailey was a teacher at the Hackley Manual Training School and lived here for 40 years. During that time he had two spouses, Florence and May, and also became a teacher at Central Junior High School.  In 1962 Robert M. Juntunen bought the house and five years later in 1967 William I. Coleman, a salesman for World Book Encyclopedia bought the house.  He lived here with his wife. They enjoyed the house for 27 years while William worked as a custodian for Mona Shores Schools and later Coleman Insulation.  In 1994 Joseph J. and Charity S. Zimmerman bought the property and it seems to have been a rental for several years. Then between 2006 and 2014 Heather Beagle, Melissa Tyler, Andrew Willet were owners and residents of the house at various times. And then the house fell into foreclosure.

When Sarah and Rehab Specialist Kimi George toured the house and saw its hidden beauty and possibilities they decided that it was redeemable. So early in 2016 Kimi began identifying the needs, creating a plan and pulling together the rehab team. For most of the year Kimi along with volunteers from the community, Community enCompass’ Youth Empowerment Program, West Michigan Works, Pay it Forward and other organizations, various subcontractors and members of Muskegon First Wesleyan Church transformed the house beyond its former beauty. New siding, new front steps, paint, new upstairs laundry and bathroom, refurbished kitchen with new cupboards and appliances and many other changes were needed to update the house. During the rehab a young family that had attended Community enCompass’ 2015 Taste and See was invited to visit the Ransom property.  They had decided that they wanted to live in the neighborhood and fell in love with the house. So the neighbors are now welcoming Jeremy and Brittany Lenertz and their two daughters Elise and Celia to the neighborhood. It is truly a story of redemption accomplished by love and hope and hard work.

The Lenertz family

The Lenertz family

As Christ’s light scatters the darkness in our lives, it comes into this home to bless those who will dwell here. The prophet Isaiah says, “let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

Jesus says, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”   As you hear these words may you be blessed with peace and joy and faith and love as you enjoy this beautifully redeemed house for many, many years.

May you welcome family, friends, neighbors and strangers through its door.    


Written by Karen Eichelberger

"I Am Neighbor" - Shawn

The greatest wealth is health
— Virgil

The cost of health is a conversation that comes up regularly with our neighbors. The cost of health care can cripple a family.  Even when wise health decisions are made, exercise is frequent and diet is healthy, the “unforeseen” can blow a hole into anyone's reality. Highly publicized social media campaigns  among other things have been utilized and supported,  just to help people cover the cost of being well again.

Shawn at home in her favorite chair.

Shawn at home in her favorite chair.

 For Shawn the “unforeseen” was a large beautifully ornate piece of furniture, which ended up taking  3 years out of her life. “I was hauling a big book case, like the ones in a lawyer's office, with 3 other men. One of the guys dropped his corner, and I tried to compensate for it. It felt like I had pulled a muscle, so I thought, ‘It’s Friday….Whatever, I’ll just grab some Tylenol,’ and I went home.” That pulled muscle turned out to be a crushed disk in her neck and a pinched nerve. She lost all feeling in her right hand and arm. It was fixable, but she would be out of work for months.

Shawn was working for an antiques restoration shop, a small company with only a handful of employees. When she spoke with her employer about health coverage after the accident, she was told that because she did not fill out an accident report form the day of the accident, the accident didn’t happened within work hours, and they were, therefore, not obliged to help cover the cost. None of her colleagues were willing to risk their jobs to vouch for her, so she had to take her employer to court, just so she could keep paying the bills.

Shawn dressed up as a nun and her daughter dressed as Hillary Clinton for Halloween

Shawn dressed up as a nun and her daughter dressed as Hillary Clinton for Halloween

Months later, after enduring torrents of verbal abuse from her ex-employer, the judge ruled in favour of Shawn. Shawn had  the forethought to record all conversations she had on the phone with her ex-employer, including the abuse. The judge ruled that either the employer paid Shawn worker’s compensation, or he would face legal charges of harassment and abuse, charges he would lose too. He chose the worker’s compensation.

The whole situation left a bad taste in Shawn’s mouth: She had been ostracized by other employers in the area and couldn't find work.  But she had to keep paying the bills.  So Shawn and her young daughter moved to Muskegon for better opportunities.

 To make the situation worse another “unforeseen” hit. After Shawn’s first surgery the doctor told her that they had found evidence of a degenerative bone condition in her spine. Unfortunately the condition is hereditary: her brothers, mother, and grandpa all have it. Her vertebrae are compacting down, literally crumbling away. Since discovering it, Shawn has had two more surgeries fixing some of her vertebrae, but ultimately there is no cure.  She can have other surgeries, but the main deterrent is physiotherapy, exercise, and pain management for the rest of her life.  And that's not cheap especially when there's no money coming in, so Shawn signed up for Medicaid.

Unable to find work, with worker’s comp running out and bills piling up, Shawn finally had to claim disability benefits. They pointed her in the direction of a local veterans housing facility. Shawn had served in the 126th Army Band of the Michigan National Guard as an oboe player. She had signed up with her parents permission right out of 11th grade,  and was honorably discharged months before the 126th was set to deploy to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm as medics in 1990.

“I jokingly say, ‘I defended Michigan with my oboe: STAND BACK, or I will play!’” It was this experience that qualified her for the free non-permanent, dorm room apartments. It was better than nothing, but after the allotted time, Shawn and her 11-year-old daughter were out on the street. With no place to go and no money for rent, they ended up in the Muskegon Rescue Mission.

Shawn didn’t want to be there. “It was really bad for us,” Shawn recalls.  Shawn was breaking the rules, smuggling food in for her daughter who would cry herself to sleep at night due to hunger.  “At some point I just realized, ‘‘I need to get out of here!’ My daughter was losing tons of weight, she was being really quiet and was intimidated by the other women there.”    

It was around this time that Shawn came across Community enCompass, quite by accident. She had seen signs for the Learning Lab, a computer room at Community enCompass open to the community where people can find help with job applications and resumes among other things, and she wandered in. It was here she overheard conversations about military housing assistance. Shawn was told that Community enCompass had resources to support female veterans with families. Two years later Shawn shares a two-bedroom bungalow with her daughter, who is in high school. Shawn pays part of the rent, and Community enCompass pays the rest. Through the help of West Michigan Works, Shawn found work with Pioneer Resources, providing care for people with physical and mental disabilities. Shawn enjoys her work. The physicality of it keeps her active, which helps with her spinal condition, and the work is flexible. She works part time so she can continue attending her physical therapy sessions.

One of Shawn's hobbies is to revive dying plants.

One of Shawn's hobbies is to revive dying plants.

Between Shawn's initial accident with an ornate bookcase and her finding her job with Pioneer Resources, Shawn was unemployed for three and a half years. As she looks back over the years of struggle, she is thankful. “It is definitely a blessing: my church, my family, and Community enCompass. I don't know where we would be without them. They are a strong part of what has gotten us this far.”

“Unforeseen” things can push anyone over the edge into poverty, vulnerable housing, or even homelessness. Accidents, medical conditions, the insensitivity of others, can all pile up on top of each other until everything breaks down. At Community enCompass, we encounter neighbors whose realities have been swallowed by their struggles to survive. We make it our business to walk alongside neighbors so that they are able to do more than survive.  Shawn and her daughter have incredible gifts to share with society, and she is in a place now where she can offer them up.  We are so proud to call Shawn neighbor, and look forward to seeing how her gifts add value to our community!  


"I Am Neighbor" - Yvette

As I sat talking to Yvette in the living room of her Bethany Housing apartment I was struck by just how clean everything was. In her kitchen the white tiled floor was sparkling, dazzlingly white, a shock to the eyes after the dull gray morning sky outside. Here in the living room, the beige carpet was fuzzy, spotless. Her apartment was clean, almost too clean, at least, cleaner than you would expect from a 21-year-old living on their own for the first time.

    It came as no surprise to find out that Yvette was a janitor at a local school. She gets paid to clean, so the spotlessness of her apartment made a little more sense. Yvette moved into her Bethany Housing apartment in May 2015, after being on the waiting list for a few months. She was excited to finally live independently. “It was a blessing because of everything I went through. Most young adults aren’t ready to be adults, but I was ready--physically ready, mentally ready.”
    Yvette has been through a lot. She was adopted at a young age “My parents gave my siblings and I up for adoption because they want me to be better than them”, she tells me, “It was to help  me, my sisters and brothers out.” Yvette’s adoptive mother then died when Yvette was 8 years old, and so she was taken in by an aunt. She has struggled with feelings of resentment towards her birth parents, but has recently reconnected with them. “Now I look back and think I could've been in jail, in the grave, or something like that but instead look where I am today! Look at how I was raised and brought up. I have no kids, I have my own place, have gone to college, have a full-time job, and now I look on the positive side of it. No negativity.”
    Yvette bounced around a few different schools but finally settled at Muskegon High School and connected to Community enCompass through its Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). The program  aims to equip young people with the tools and encouragement to become leaders within their communities. YEP opened Yvette up to opportunities like mentoring younger children through  an after school program and CATCH Camp, a summer day camp for children.  As a YEP, Yvette also worked with a team of 4 other young YEP women on the rehab of a residential home  Community enCompass rehabbed to sell, learning  skills in construction and rehabbing. “That project taught me how we can bring a community together and build something great. I really liked that.”

Yvette in her Bethany Housing Program apartment.

Yvette in her Bethany Housing Program apartment.

The YEP program also helped to Yvette become college-ready. Although she has put her formal education on hiatus, she is close to completing a degree in Early Education with Criminal Justice, and she also recently enrolled in a local cosmetology school. Ultimately, Yvette wants to work within the prison system, as she sees it as a way to be able to give back to the community. However for Yvette, just like most young adults, being able to finish school, and be financially independent is close to impossible.

Yvette doesn't want to take out a loan. “It will get you in the long run,” she says referring to the high-interest rates on monthly payments. So, she studies and works. In the past, she has worked two jobs while also going to  classes. Her current 2nd shift janitorial job allows her to cover her bills and live comfortably, but it also conflicts with the times the majority of college classes are  taking place. She sums up the predicament many youth face today,  “College can't pay your {immediate} bills. I wanna go back, but right now I can’t.”

Yvette is being wise: working hard, paying her bills, and staying away from debt and loans. She’s even saving a little money, but this hasn't always been of benefit. A lack of loans, car payments, credit card payments can lead to bad credit. Landlords often won’t  rent to those with bad credit, so despite working hard, saving money and making wise decisions, she struggled to find a place to call her own until she contacted Community enCompass.  Our Bethany Housing Program helps provide units to people who have low  credit scores or can't find a reliable cosigner, instead looking at proof of income and rental history to gauge suitability for the program. For the last year and a half, Yvette has been a model tenant and neighbor.

    Yvette is a strong, independent, fearless young African American woman, with a bright future ahead of her. We are so glad to call her neighbor!

"I Am Neighbor" - Bob

Autumn days are shorter.  Mornings are colder.  Anticipation swells for the colors of the season. It’s a time of plenty: the market is full of produce; stores are full of candy; neighborhood windows are full of cobwebs. Children are looking forward to the holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

For Bob, the anticipation he feels is more aptly described as fear. For the roughly 2,400 homeless people like Bob in Muskegon County, winter is a time of hardship.

Click the image for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

Click the image for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

Bob didn’t always live in his friend's garage. After getting a qualification in accounting in the 80’s the financial market crashed, so Bob moved into Muskegon's busy manufacturing industry. Similar to the financial market, the manufacturing market in the USA also crashed. Like the rest of Michigan, Muskegon's manufacturing started to slow and shut down: Factories were closed; jobs moved overseas; thousands of people were slowly laid off. After 9 years in his position, Bob also was reshuffled, and then, because he cost the company too much money, he also was sacked.

Bob moved on to another manufacturing job through a temporary work service. Despite continually being told that the company would be hiring full permanent positions soon, he was surprised to find himself unemployed again after the company decided to move their business to China.

Again Bob moved on, this time to work at a die cast facility that produced automobile parts.

“It was during that time GM went belly under {sic},” Bob says.  The facility panicked because they had lost major contracts and had to cut costs.  Bob was not an essential employee. “I didn't get my 90 days, so I had to go.”

Bob moved on once more, doing landscaping and working for a cleaning agency until his Landlord decided to sell off the property. “I stayed there for another 3 or 4 months doing odd jobs and helping out with plumbers and stuff, just to be an extra pair of hands,” but when the work was completed, Bob was left with nowhere to go. It was winter and the cold, icy temperatures left Bob with one choice--The Rescue Mission.  

When the cold of winter had passed, Bob moved his life into a storage unit.  “I ended up on the news. ‘Homeless man sleeping in storage unit.’  It was kinda true, kinda not: you gotta do what you gotta do to keep tugging along.” That's exactly what Bob does, despite the circumstances, despite his health, he keeps tugging along.

He currently sleeps in a friend’s garage, moving around every couple of weeks and has his belongings scattered around other friends’ houses. Bob walks everywhere.  He doesn't drive, and couldn't afford the cost even if he wanted to. Finding work has depended on his ability to travel, having to rely on his friends for transport if the work was too far for him to walk.

Earlier this year, Bob was referred to Pathways to Better Health of the Lakeshore, a  Mercy Health Community Benefit Program that helps develop care plans for vulnerable people with two or more chronic diseases. From there he was referred to Community enCompass, where he was connected to Housing Resource Specialists who are helping him navigate towards permanent housing.  Bob is currently waiting for a Section 8 Housing Voucher so that he can get off the streets and back on his feet.  He’s also waiting on a disability claim. On top of Bob’s chronic illnesses, he also has back problems and is blind in one eye. Like 30%* of the homeless population of Muskegon, Bob’s health prevents him from working. Yet like the season, Bob’s still moving on.

Autumn is here and Bob is left waiting. He volunteers at Sacred Suds, a community center and day shelter program of Community enCompass.  He also does occasional yard work for his church. Bob has no certainty in his future: where he will be staying, if he will be working, what will happen with his health.  All Bob knows is that if nothing changes, he'll face no choice but to go back to the Mission for the winter.  

We would like to thank Bob for sharing his story and for agreeing to keep us updated as he progresses. Unfortunately, Bob's story is all too common in Muskegon, but it is integral to changing the narrative and helping the broader society better understand the challenges faced by homeless people

*Data taken from the MHCCN Annual Data Report 2007-2015

"I Am Neighbor" - James Erving Emmendorfer

"I was running out of work so I chose to move up to Newaygo, to be with my girlfriend. Three days after Christmas, three and a half years ago she kicked me out of the house, because I didn't find a job and I didn't get my unemployment and the only place I could find to go at the time was Muskegon Rescue Mission, so that's what brought me to Muskegon.

Click on Jim's portrait for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

Click on Jim's portrait for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

I was living in my vehicle in a friend's house across the street and I found out this (Sacred Suds) was a good place I could do laundry and take showers and have coffee and a doughnut and lunch once in awhile. It’s very beneficial so it really helped me out.

I became a volunteer because it helped me and I wanna help other people and pass it along, and it's very beneficial, this place for helping homeless people that's living on the street or may not have water at their house…….I like to help people and pass it along.

I found out about all these other programs I can use to benefit me and other people. It’s been a struggle for three and a half years, but now I’m back on my feet and I just like to volunteer and as I said, pass it on.

I just started so I think I’m gonna be working the front desk once in awhile or whatever they need me to do: cleaning or sweeping, I don’t mind, landscaping, it don’t matter; whatever they want me to do.

Through Sacred Suds I heard about Community enCompass and Section 8 (affordable housing) that helps veterans like me and other people that have been homeless, now I live in Norton Shores in a community complex thanks to Sacred Suds and Community enCompass and section 8 housing. My income? I got disability. I applied for disability and won my disability case.

I’m doing really good. I like volunteering and passing it along so that other people can benefit too."

Jim volunteers at Sacred Suds and can be found getting his hands dirty in the garden or doing odd jobs around the building.