Pastor John Hopkins, who leads Ferry Street/Lighthouse Ministries at 125 Mason St., in the Flint, doesn’t mind his own short paycheck. “Our treasure is in heaven,” he said.
Pastor John Hopkins, who leads Ferry Street/Lighthouse Ministries at 125 Mason St., in the Flint, doesn’t mind his own short paycheck.
“Our treasure is in heaven,” he said.
He does, however, mind the short paychecks of most in his congregation — a group of worshippers who are mostly poor or just a little south of working class.
Ferry Street/Lighthouse Ministries runs programs for the homeless, substance abusers, soup kitchens, Bible study groups and a variety of programs aimed at physical and spiritual hunger.
The larger economy does not pass over the small church on Mason Street, and events like the closing of A.J. Wright and Quaker Fabric make a difference in this neighborhood, as they do across the city.
“We felt it when Quaker closed,” Hopkins said. “Anything like Quaker or A.J. Wright hits us big time.”
“Big time" like an increase in food pantry visitors from 90 to 200 families in a year. "Big time" like 120 people at the Sunday soup kitchen this year, up from 60 to 70 people a year ago.
“We might not feel it right away because they’re still working at A.J. Wright, but we’ll feel it in a month,” Hopkins said. “Once they get that last paycheck, once they get on unemployment, reality hits.”
Hopkins noted that work is still the best option.
“You have to work,” he said. “You can’t stay on unemployment. Someone has to pay for that.”
Hopkins said he’s noted the disappearance of textile jobs from the city.
“I had 30 years in the textile business,” he said. “When I was a kid I cut braid.”
Hopkins went on to be a manager and owner in the textile business, and he saw the jobs leave.
“I believe our economy cannot be successful with just a service economy,” he said.
“That’s why all our money is going to China and it isn’t coming back,” he said.
“It used to be, Uncle Billy got you a job at Quaker Fabric and you got a house,” he said. “They were living the American Dream and then it all got yanked out from under people.
“Every time something big happens, like what happened at A.J. Wright, we’ll see it,” he said. “When Quaker closed, people were ashamed to come here for food, they’re ashamed to apply for food stamps.
“You paid taxes, I tell them,” Hopkins said. “I tell them if you get $30 a month in food stamps, it’s some gallons of milk, a little bit of meat.”
“The government says it wants to empower people,” Hopkins said. “This economy takes power away from people.
“There are no good jobs in the city,” Hopkins said. “The $11, the $12, the $13 an hour jobs are gone.”
Hopkins said that, while most people think of a soup kitchen client as a middle-aged street alcoholic, that stereotype doesn't apply to the majority of people who come to Mason Street.
“It’s families,” he said. “It’s women with children. It’s grandparents raising their grandkids.”
Hopkins said he watches the city grapple with homelessness and wonders.
“They planned that thing at the YMCA and it was a good plan and the city kiboshed it," he said. “Where does the city think they’re going to go?”
And he had strong words for those who object to a shelter in their neighborhood.
“I got news for you,” he said. “The homeless are in your neighborhood now.”
E-mail Marc Munroe Dion at firstname.lastname@example.org.