Dr. Chad Audi: The Detroit Homeless Community’s Ambassador
As Dr. Chad Audi reflects on the woman overcoming drug and alcohol addiction through the DRMM and getting her teaching license back, Dr. Audi says, “I felt like you can see something here you can’t see anywhere else. You can help draw a smile on someone’s face who lost it. You can give hope to people who lost their hope, so you go home feeling like you have done something... I felt like it was a real calling to do this type of work."
Dr. Audi began working in the DRMM's finance department in 1997, and rose to become the Vice President of Finance and Administration. Later, he was appointed to the position of Chief Operating Officer. In 2005, he was selected to serve as the CEO/President of the DRMM.
Initially Dr. Audi only planned on staying with the DRMM temporarily until starting a higher paying job he received, but eventually turned it down to stay at the DRMM.
“I didn’t know that I was going to do this, but now I love what I’m doing, and I would never go back to doing any other type of work,” he said.
Dr. Audi is a real ambassador for the disadvantaged and abused. He’s written to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other elected officials about recently proposed budget cuts that would hurt families that are already struggling financially, and visited Washington to speak on their behalf.
Under Dr. Audi’s direction DRMM has become the largest rescue mission in the country. He saw a great deal of potential in the organization and truly believed he could move it from a regular non-profit to an aggressive organization.
The DRMM was established in 1909 as a soup kitchen to feed the hungry and homeless in southeast Michigan. Its founder, David Stucky never anticipated it would stay open for over a century with several rehab centers, permanent housing, clinics and educational programs being established in the course of the next few decades.
Today Dr. Audi, who’s a Lebanese American oversees the DRMM $22 million annual budget. The DRMM provides over one million meals a year to the needy; over 3,500 meals are served daily; an increase of 40 percent since one year ago; every night over 1,400 individuals are housed in its shelters.
In addition to assisting the homeless and providing drug and alcohol treatment the DRMM helps victims of domestic violence, former prison inmates, war veterans among others.
Dr. Audi has managed to increase the DRMM’s donor base significantly through fundraising, and fixed its finances. The DRMM’s Cornerstone Bistro restaurant in Highland Park opened in 2010 and is an entity that can support itself. It trains its employees — many of which are the DRMM's own clients. Dr. Audi said moving forward the DRMM is looking into adding more self-sufficient entities.
He believes it’s very easy to become homeless, especially in an economic crisis, when so many people who live paycheck to paycheck lose their jobs. “Most people live paycheck to paycheck, and because of that they're one or two paychecks away from being homeless,” Dr. Audi said. A majority of the homeless at the DRMM suffer from mental disabilities.
In the course of the last five years, people who’ve never sought services from the DRMM, have had no other choice but to. Many of them once made a living by working for the region’s big three automakers, but lost their jobs in the wake of the companies’ recent financial woes. “I understand how it works. It could happen to anyone,” Dr. Audi said.
Dr. Audi says drug and alcohol addiction are diseases, and there are studies that prove it.
Dr. Audi's work comes with immense responsibilities and stress that he brings home everyday. It's a job he says that "keeps him up at night."
He’s on the job 24/7, because the people being sheltered by the DRMM are “under his roof.” A fight or death could occur anytime he explains.
He remembers a 101 year-old-woman facing eviction from her home with no shelter. She was taken under the DRMM’s wing. "Those are things that keep you up at night," he says of the elderly woman’s situation.
Dr. Audi has a doctorate degree, but a good education isn’t enough to do his job he says:
“You have to have the heart, the compassion and the willingness and the patience. Then comes the education and credentials. Number one is the passion. If you don’t have that you can’t do it. We don’t treat people like cases we treat them like human beings."
Dr. Audi has a message for the community about his own experiences at the DRMM:
“We shouldn’t be stuck about all these credentials we have and become disconnected from the people that might have the opportunity to be like us. This is what we have to do with the people suffering from drugs and alcohol. We have to help save them. We shouldn’t treat them as second class citizens.”
The Arab American News
New Michigan Media