The University Record, October 23, 1995

SOS is 'clearinghouse for crises'

By Rebecca A. Doyle

 "Something inside me said,'you need to give back to your community,'" says Bernadette Waters, staff development associate for Building Services. "It was time for me to look for a place where I could volunteer and do that."

Waters is more than half-way through the 40-plus hours of training involved in becoming a volunteer counselor at SOS Community Crisis Center, an Ypsilanti-based crisis intervention facility. Her training has spanned everything from battered women and child abuse to alcoholism, suicide and homelessness.

"I haven't started working yet," Waters admits. "I still have to go through the mentorship portion and work with another counselor for 12 weeks." But she says she is ready and anxious to begin working with those in need, especially on issues of homelessness.

"People are not out there because they just don't want to work. Something just fell apart in the system and it is not their fault. My training in SOS has really been enlightening," she adds.

Waters will join the volunteer staff of between 50 and 75 trained crisis counselors who answer telephone calls from people in need of shelter, food, financial counseling, medical care or just someone to talk to.

Alfreda Rooks has been volunteering at SOS for five years. A certified crisis counselor, she is qualified to serve as a counselor for SOS volunteers who take calls as well as individuals who call in to ask for help.

"I think of SOS as a clearinghouse for crises," Rooks says. "We are the front line for anyone having a crisis need. It is our job to get them stabilized, then refer them to another agency that specializes in that particular area."

Her work and training at SOS has helped her in her position at the U-M, she adds, in dealing with students and with conflict situations. Her office at the School of Public Health's Environmental and Industrial Health Division is known as a "venting room," she says, for frustrated and "stressed-out" students.

SOS Community Crisis Center provides immediate aid for emergency basic needs, a program to help prevent homelessness, shelter and support services for those who are homeless, transitional housing, senior connections program, crisis intervention suicide hotline, an emergency food hotline and a referral program to a large number of resources in Washtenaw County.

SOS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year as an agency that provides services for those who have immediate needs. For nearly as long, the agency has been a recipient of United Way funding and now receives funds from grants, individual and group donations, the Ann Arbor community and the Department of Social Services as well.

Donations to the United Way campaign benefit SOS and 53 other agencies that receive undesignated and designated dollars, another 54 agencies that receive designated funds only and 17 agencies that make up the Combined Health Appeal of Michigan and receive both designated and undesignated dollars.

The University's United Way campaign, now past the half-way point, has reached 51.1 percent of the $1 million plus goal with a total of $511,444. The U-M's campaign runs through the end of October.