8–7–2021 UPDATE: Since this article was originally published, Jubilee has become a legal nonprofit recognized by the State of Michigan! Our mission and vision have been refined and our priorities have been redefined. Jubilee will not be starting a home care agency in the near future. Instead, we are putting all of our effort and energy into implementing community-sourced Permanent Supportive Housing and creating opportunities for people that were recently homeless. Jubilee is a network that connects disadvantaged community members in the Greater Lansing Area with effective support and transformative opportunities. Our vision is to transform the experience of being homeless in Lansing from lonely and miserable into a VIP ticket redeemable for the support, relationships, resources, and opportunities required to truly transform lives. We wish to partner with other organizations, government agencies, and the City of Lansing to eradicate homelessness in our community.
I considered editing this article to reflect these changes but I’ve decided to leave it be and let it document our journey. Enjoy! ~Erica Munchbach, President and Founder of Jubilee.
Article as originally published in February of 2021:
As a teenager, I spent my evenings and weekends at stables and horse shows. In college, I studied foreign languages, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology. As a young adult, I interned at MSU labs, worked at the MSU vet clinic and worked at Sparrow Hospital. I became a mother at 24 and poured myself into being a great parent. I homeschooled my children and served the homeschool community by teaching classes about horses and science.
In my early 30’s, life took a turn for the worse. I made some poor choices regarding the company I kept and social environments I placed myself in. Eventually, I found myself struggling with hard drugs and an abusive relationship with a dangerous person.
As I tried to improve my life, I learned that I couldn’t make effective change happen on my own. I sought help for my intense mental and emotional issues from several programs, agencies and organizations. None of those roads led to effective support. I’m an intelligent and capable person and I was dedicated and committed to changing my life. If it was that hard for me to find effective support, it must be doubly hard for people that aren’t as capable or committed. Our community needs to provide more options that effectively address mental, emotional, and substance abuse issues.
Our behaviours and personalities are profoundly shaped by the five people we spend the most time around. Jubilee will make positive relationships with positive people easily accessible. This will create more positive people that will evolve into the next wave of mentors. It’s possible to intentionally transform our entire community like this.
Jubilee will hire and house people that are typically rejected by other employers and landlords. Securing housing or employment will be the main way people initially engage with our network. From there they will be connected with mentors and other free resources. Rise Recovery and Residential Options Incorporated (ROI) are two agencies that provide similar services but there are no comprehensive networks that meet people’s long-term relational and support needs with the goal of transforming the community one person at a time.
Activities that support vibrant relationships and therefore positive change include mentoring, volunteering, engaging in community events, art, music, support groups, spiritual seeking, physical activity, career advancement, life-long learning, and interacting with animals. Jubilee will incentivize participation in these activities.
As a non-profit, Jubilee will not endeavor to make a profit and will be exempt from paying certain taxes. These two factors will create a profit margin that will be used to pay employees of our home care agency a significantly higher wage than what is offered by other agencies. Our employees will be paid a base rate consistent with minimum wage and offered a personal development premium. To be eligible for this premium wage, employees will be required to connect regularly with a mentor and participate in two qualifying activities per week. Qualifying activities will include support groups, personal training, riding lessons, music lessons and book clubs.
Upon signing their lease, our tenants will be connected with a mentor and expected to meet with them regularly. Tenants will be encouraged to participate in activities that support vibrant relationships and positive change. Inevitably, our tenants will present us with challenges such as non-payment, substance abuse, and poor upkeep. When these scenarios arise we will remain committed and dedicated, create interventions, and provide support instead of eviction notices.
Jubilee will work diligently to break down barriers to participation in qualifying activities for our employees, tenants, and others associated with our network. We will find creative and innovative ways to provide transportation to these activities, fund them, and provide childcare when necessary.
Meeting with a therapist a couple times a month can be beneficial but it simply does not have the power to transform a life and rarely provides significant or sufficient support during hard times. A well-woven and intentionally connected community like the one being created by Jubilee has the potential to transform many lives. In 2018, the medical examiner reported 84 opioid-related deaths in Ingham County alone. How many of them tried to change their lives but were unable to find effective support? We anticipate that many lives will be resuscitated and dreams manifested because Jubilee gave people a place to plug in and find the support they need.
Jubilee is gaining momentum and fulfilling the mission of connecting disadvantaged community members with positive people and transformative opportunities. Jubilee’s leadership team recently coordinated the Fourth Annual “When September Ends.” We honored the struggle of one family that overcame homelessness with an exclusive VIP experience on September 26, 2020.
This family was whisked away to a magical evening where they connected with local artists, entertainers and entrepreneurs. Children that were homeless just a few months prior were able to work side by side with an accomplished artist and enjoy dancing from other cultures. We collected a variety of donations from the community that were distributed directly to this family, including over $400 in visa cards, Walmart cards and cash. The family was also presented with donations of beds for all six children, a queen size bed for mom, a suite of career consulting services, a gift certificate for a specialty cake, a gift certificate for personal training sessions, a gift certificate for a portrait session, salon grade beauty products, and toys and clothes for the kids. Non-monetary donations collected for the family are valued at well over $2000. We also raised over $1000 for the City Rescue Mission of Lansing. The global pandemic brought about many challenges regarding planning and executing this event yet it was a remarkable success. We experienced a 350% increase in revenue from the 2019 event. This demonstrates the traction we are gaining and our emerging marketing proficiency.
Our government and health care delivery systems do not help people that are ready for help and they abuse people that aren’t ready for help. They waste tons of money and the services people desperately need access to are impeded by red tape, bureaucracy, and plain old lack of integrity and follow-through. It’s time for the community to take responsibility and stop relying on “the system” to solve our collective and broad spectrum mental health problems. Jubilee will take bold and proactive steps in this direction.
I’ve completed 120 college credits in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry coursework. I thought those were significant lessons until struggling with addiction and homelessness gave me an education that you can’t buy and no one would pay for anyway. I have the leadership skills, organizing skills, dedication, drive, determination, follow through and networking skills to do what it takes to help people make positive changes. I’ve facilitated support groups and mentored people. I also have over 20 years of experience in the medical field including hiring and supervising caregivers.
If you’ve ever spent time in a 12 step group, you’ve likely heard some version of, “In order to stay sober, you have to change your playmates, playgrounds, and playthings.” Jubilee will provide a platform for friendships and mentoring relationships with positive playmates and access to positive playgrounds and positive playthings. Jubilee will meet people’s long-term relational and support needs and create a stronger community.
Several years ago my closest friends influenced me to stay up all night and do heroin. These days, my closest friends influence me to sing on the praise team at my church, grow vegetables in a community garden, and start a business. I have worked hard to create a network of positive people that support my growth and development instead of my demise. My credentials, experience, and successful, ongoing transformation all contribute to me being the right person to lead Jubilee.
This collection of beautiful and like-minded people is evolving into Jubilee’s leadership team. David is excited about working as a caregiver for Jubilee and consistently utilizes his many connections in the community to secure donations. Jeremy co-founded Lansing’s premier variety show and he’s curated and produced many high-quality ticketed performances. Jeremy walks in definitive victory over his struggle with heroin and works diligently as a recovery advocate to break the stigma of addiction. Pam is teaching us the ins & outs of property management and connecting us with other experts in her field.
We’ve been collaborating with these 9 entities. These mutually beneficial relationships will continue to evolve and support everyone’s goals for a better community. We’ve shared volunteers and worked together on food distributions, clean-ups, art shows, support groups and musical performances. Our partners will refer people to us for housing and jobs and our partners intend to help us with free or discounted media production and marketing. We will source mentors from our partners and look to them to connect us with grants, donations, transportation and other resources. We are negotiating several new partnerships and we are always looking to connect with other organizations that are trying to make a positive impact in the community.
We are currently in the process of building our leadership team, establishing our leadership structure, and becoming a non-profit. The next step for Jubilee is to begin offering care-giving services. We anticipate success and sustainability within one year. At that point, we will begin working on plans to fund-raise and obtain properties.
If you look closely at a trampoline, you’ll notice that the fibers are intricately interwoven and intertwined. If our community is to be resilient and bounce back from our collective trauma, we must be intentionally connected like those fibers. Jubilee will accomplish that connection and catalyze positive change. If you’d like to connect with us and explore the possibility of building a partnership or supporting our goals in another way, please call or text Erica at (517) 962–6523 or email us at email@example.com.
Click here to watch an interview where our founder and president shares more about Jubilee.
~written by Erica Munchbach