2018-06-14 / Front Page

Homeless ministry to sell facility to manufacturer

By Ben Muir

PORT AUSTIN - A homeless ministry in Port Austin is planning to sell its facilities to a Huron County manufacturing corporation, signaling a closure to a deal that might give a new home to hundreds of the steel producer’s employees from Puerto Rico.

Port Austin Bible Campus has operated as a homeless ministry since 2010 and the number of residents in the shelter over the years has fluctuated but headed in an upward trend, according to Norman Edwards, trustee and manager of the campus. In 2011, there were 75 residents; by 2015, there were 118; the highest it reached was 2016, when there were 158 residents, and then it dropped to 126 in 2017, Edwards noted.

But now, considering it would be cost effective, along with the manager planning to move, the religious trust that owns the ministry is planning to sell.

Huron Casting Incorporated, which produces shell model steel castings out of Pigeon, intends to purchase the 11-building campus, unless, though unlikely, its survey of the property indicates low cost efficiency, said Edwards.

“They were highly indicating they were going to go through with it,” Edwards said after a meeting with corporation officials on Monday. “The purchase agreement they have gives them until Friday to decide.”

The same officials, according to Edwards, said Huron Casting plans to use the campus to house between 30 and 300 of its employed American citizens from Puerto Rico.

This runs counter to what former Port Austin President Tony Loewe wrote in a recent letter to the Huron County Board of Commissioners. He wrote in the letter that his understanding is Huron Casting plans to use the property to provide shelter for “possible H2b-H3b persons with work permits/green cards coming from out of the U.S.A. … I am greatly concerned about this use of the former Bible Campus property.”

At this, Edwards told the VIEW that he never gave Loewe information to suggest the incoming employees would not be from Puerto Rico.

“And I’d kind of be amazed if he was talking to [Huron Casting] directly,” Edwards said.

Loewe later told the VIEW that he’s concerned with adding possibly hundreds to the Port Austin population, saying it might hurt the tax base, lower wages, impact healthcare and require more local governmental services.

“I’m concerned about the idea of bringing in hundreds of foreign workers [to Port Austin],” said Loewe, who had served 12 years on the village council and two terms as president. “They don’t speak our language … Suppose it works out, let’s bring 300 more. But all of the goods and services are going to be paid for by the local residents.”

Representatives from Huron Casting did not respond to multiple voicemails requesting an interview.

Edwards added that it’s not his position to evaluate the future use of the facilities, as long as it is not illegal. He said he would have liked it to remain a homeless ministry and it nearly did last year. The Michigan House of Hope, an independent charitable Christian institution, considered buying the property until it decided it would be too expensive to renovate, he noted.

Edwards said that there are two reasons he is selling the ministry. It would have cost $100,000 to repair the damaged infrastructure and the value of the property is around $160,000. What’s more, Edwards and his wife, Marleen, are moving to Nashville to be closer to family and start a new ministry.

The vast but tattered campus has five buildings used for housing. Two of those have been out of service recently. The additional six buildings - every building is 6,000 square feet - are used as a garage, cafeteria, recreation and storage. Aside from a place to live, the ministry provided its otherwise homeless residents with food, rides to work and appointments, clothing and daily, secular classes.

Return to top

Copyright © 2009-2018 Huron County View, All Rights Reserved

Click here for digital edition
2018-06-14 digital edition