Member Spotlight: Exodus Place Offers a Hand Up, Not a Handout
A Hand Up, Not a Handout
After three months on the job, the new Executive Director of Exodus Place Tom Hyde says he’s still learning something new every day.
That’s because, as Hyde says, there is never a dull moment at the transitional housing facility. With a capacity to house 140 men, leading the day to day operations of Exodus Place is a busy and fulfilling job.
Hyde came to the organization after 11 years at Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. Prior to that, he spent over 25 years at Steelcase. With his non-profit experience and general business knowledge, Hyde is bringing a high level of customer service to help Exodus Place create an even stronger organization for men coming from difficult situations.
“Our team is dedicated to meeting the men where they are,” Hyde said. “We don’t turn anyone away. It doesn’t matter what struggles they may have gone through in the past – when they get to Exodus Place, they can have a fresh start.”
Exodus Place currently has 135 members. These men come from a variety of backgrounds – some have transitioned out of foster care, some have struggled with alcohol abuse or drug addiction, some were previously incarcerated, some have dealt with homelessness their whole lives – but they all have one thing in common: they are welcome at Exodus Place.
“We believe in offering men a hand up, not a handout,” Hyde said. “We walk beside our members, treating them with dignity and respect. Exodus Place doesn’t provide just a room, but a second chance.”
Unlike a homeless shelter, Exodus Place works on a membership basis. The residents pay a monthly fee, which includes more than just a place to sleep. Members receive three meals a day, case management, counseling and goal planning, free laundry and haircuts, a variety of educational opportunities, fellowship and more.
As part of their membership, residents are expected to comply to a strict set of rules. Exodus Place has zero tolerance for violence, drugs and alcohol on the premises, and all men are required to be employed, have an income, or be actively looking for a job while members.
With these expectations, Exodus Place isn’t for everyone. The view from Hyde’s office, which looks out to the Grand River, is a reminder of this.
“From my desk, I have a view of the bridge over the Grand River, and I can see people coming and going,” Hyde said. “This can be both encouraging and heartbreaking. I see when men are coming to us, looking for a new start, but sometimes, I see men on their way out, when it didn’t work for them here. This view can be the best and worst part of my job.”
The Story of Exodus Place
This year, Exodus Place will be celebrating its 10th anniversary.
In July 2009, Exodus Place founder Robb Munger developed a plan to completely remodel a former corrections facility located on the Grand River. The 38,000-square-foot facility had been abandoned for more than two years, and was badly damaged by water, sewage, mold and mildew. But Munger and six formerly homeless men saw its potential for something great.
Over several months, a core team worked tirelessly to make the building habitable. The group was mostly volunteers, including recovering addicts and homeless men, working to transform the building room by room into a home for men transitioning out of difficult circumstances. Word spread quickly, and within six months, Exodus Place had over 100 residents.
The Exodus Place Team
In addition to Hyde, the Exodus Place team includes 8 full-time and 4 part-time staff. Two case managers work with members, connecting them to community resources and assisting with goal planning, counseling and employment assistance. An education coordinator provides classes and workshops, one-on-one tutoring and preparation for pre-employment testing. A medical department coordinator manages medications for the members, provides medical resources, and offers a free blood pressure clinic. The workforce development team trains and develops front desk, kitchen and janitorial staff, allowing members the opportunity to work at Exodus Place to assist in paying their dues. The kitchen staff work tirelessly to provide the men with three meals a day, including bagged meals to bring to work. An onsite chaplain offers daily devotions and fellowship.
One of the satisfying parts of his job, Hyde said, is seeing the community support around Exodus Place. In January, there was an issue with bikes getting stolen from the rack out front. More than 30 bikes were stolen. For many of the members, these bikes were their main method of transportation, and the theft had a huge impact on their daily lives. When the community heard about the issue, though, they took action. Bike donations came pouring in. Even after the need for bikes was filled, another individual donated bike locks to ensure the problem wouldn’t continue.
This support goes a long way for the staff and members.
In June, adults in the community are invited to join a barbecue in celebration of Exodus Place’s 10-year anniversary. The barbecue, hosted at Exodus Place on June 18, will bring together Exodus Place staff, members, volunteers, and the community.
To stay up to date on Exodus Place and their upcoming events, you can follow them on Facebook.