Interviewed by Mitch Albom

We were interviewed by Mitch Albom for his show The Heart of Detroit airing Thursdays during Local 4 News (WDIV-Detroit) at 5 p.m. The Heart of Detroit shares inspiring stories of metro Detroiters who make others less hungry, less troubled, less impoverished or just a little happier.

Place a person in permanent housing

With the assistance of Southwest Solutions, we helped place one more person into permanent housing.

Charity of The Month

CBS Radio Detroit – WWJ- 950 AM, WXYT- 97.1 FM & WDZH- 98.7 FM has selected Heart 2 Hart Detroit as their Charity Of The Month, Nov 1- Nov 22

We received our 501(c) (3) status

Heart 2 Hart Detroit received our 501(c) (3) status from the Internal Revenue Service. We are now classified as a public charity. All donations are tax deductible.

We Appreciated Tigers Icons, But Did We Care About Them?

DEADLINE DETROIT  |  August 3rd, 2013, 5:39 PM

Mark Jacobs, an attorney and longtime community activist, is involved in nonprofit work and is chairman of Heart 2 Hart Detroit, a nonprofit organization committed to feeding and clothing Detroit’s homeless population.

By Mark Jacobs

Mark Jacobs, an attorney and longtime community activist, is involved in nonprofit work and is chairman of Heart 2 Hart Detroit, a nonprofit organization committed to feeding and clothing Detroit’s homeless population.

““Dreadlock Mike” Alston was buried on Saturday, alongside his street pal, James Van Horn. The two homeless men were fixtures outside the Tigers’ games.

The fans affectionately called out their names, gave them spare change and shared a brief smile as they entered and exited the ballpark.

And when the fans were gone, Eat Em Up and Dreadlock Mike were alone again, roaming the streets in search of food, warmth and shelter, until one summer night when a driver killed them both and drove away.

Eat Em Up’s funeral was on Friday and Mike’s was on Saturday. I was at Mike’s funeral. A nonprofit group I’m with, Heart 2 Hart Detroit, had helped Mike out from time to time, and we felt compelled to attend the funeral and pay our respects.
The funeral was attended by approximately 40 people, a mixed crowd of ages and races, each having their own reasons to be there. Mike’s family recalled the man the public never knew, the Mike who had no catchy nickname, and for 30 minutes or so we heard a piece of Mike Alston’s story.

Mike was 55, the eldest of 5 children. He was educated in Detroit Public Schools and later worked at Chrysler. His sister tearfully recalled her big brother’s big heart and his over-protectiveness over her when they were kids.

She told us how her brother never stopped trying to turn his life around. She and a cousin told stories of Mike’s boyhood and alluded to a “traumatic teenage experience” that led him to life on the mean streets of Detroit.

There was a powerful eulogy, some poignant comments from an old friend of Mike’s, State Senator Bert Johnson, and then lots of hugs from strangers to the gracious family.

But beyond the warmth of the moment, it was the unsaid words that were most profound: what happened to this man, and where were we when it was happening?

Mike was 1 of 20,000 homeless people in Detroit, a mass of people that includes children, veterans, the mentally ill and other victims.

In death, Mike was praised as a Detroit icon, a man who alongside his buddy were  part of the colorful and  fun experience of going to a Tigers’ game.

They were the guys you’d high five, yell out their name and maybe toss them a quarter as you flooded in and out of a game. But, in reality, as we exited to the suburbs these two men went back to their struggle for survival. And then one summer night they died a violent death.

So where were we? And where are we today with the other thousands of other homeless people who  are hungry, tired, vulnerable  and frightened at this very moment you’re reading these words?

“What are we doing? What are we doing?”, State Senator Johnson implored the crowd.

It was the question of the day, and of these harsh times in our beloved but troubled city.

Heart 2 Hart are regular guys helping the homeless


by Terry Foster

Detroit — His name is Eric and he wore a sport jacket and neck tie Wednesday. His new attire symbolizes the transition in his life.

Eric and other homeless came to meet the good folks at Heart 2 Hart Detroit, a group of area folks that distribute clothes, food and love every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Hart Plaza and other places around downtown Detroit.

Eric said he is a former drug addict and alcoholic that spent nights in Hart Plaza. He was lost in life aimlessly roaming the streets downtown, grabbing hobo showers in Cobo Arena when the bathrooms opened in the morning.

Now he is in transition housing and hopes to have a permanent home soon. He is also looking for a job. Eric is one of the main reasons why I’ve decided to make Hart 2 Heart Detroit one of two organizations that I plan to help as we try to try to battle this homeless problem in Detroit.

I was told there are 20,000 homeless in Metro Detroit and there are 1,900 beds for them.

I met Chairman Mark Jacobs and Founder Larry Oleinick from Heart 2 Hart to see the work they do. They packed cars with boxed lunches of a turkey or peanut butter sandwiches and socks. They even got a case of T-shirts from the Detroit Pistons this day. They do this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon rain, snow or sun.

They are just a bunch of regular people that need help to help others. They told me they are barely making it and I want us all to join in and help them with their mission of feeding the homeless and helping them get off the streets.

They need food, socks, gloves, jackets, sleeping bags, baby wipes and have a new request of cologne. Their website is and I ask that you visit their site to see how you can help. I plan to donate and champion their causes to my 45,000 followers on twitter, face book and on this blog.

Every little bit helps.

I wanted to do this after seeing so many homeless laying on the streets downtown near steam vents as I walked to my car after Lions games. The jolt to finally act happened when two Detroit sports icons, the Eat ‘Em Up Tigers guy and Dreadlock Mike were killed when they were hit by a car.

It was time for me to do something to help.

I found a similar group that goes out into the streets. I will tell you about that group on Friday.

(Join me tonight at Dirty Jerseys in Windsor (7:30 – 9:30 pm) as I sell and sign my book 100 Things Tiger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. Books are $15 or two for $25 and part of the proceeds will help Heart 2 Hart Detroit.)



Officials Turn Blind Eye to Detroit’s Growing Homeless Crisis

DEADLINE DETROIT   | June 3rd, 2013, 8:45 AM

By Mark Jacobs

Detroit teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, but that hasn’t stopped self-proclaimed experts from laying out big bold visions for the city’s turnaround.

Mayoral candidates, business leaders and policy wonks on Mackinac Island are all quick to expound on how Detroit can once again be a great American city. But for all their sage advice on economic revitalization, once again there’s barely a peep on how to solve the city’s mounting homeless crisis, which has swelled to approximately 20,000 people.

While Detroit is hardly alone in facing a homeless crisis, many other cities have addressed it head on with both words and actions. Some cities have dedicated homeless departments and city-sponsored housing, transportation and counseling services.

Santa Monica holds fundraisers, conferences and publishes a monthly newsletter on homelessness. Denver has specially designated parking meters where the money goes to homeless aid. Chicago set up a Task Force on Homeless Youth. Philadelphia established a Supportive Housing department for the homeless. And Dallas operates a city homeless resource center called ‘The Bridge’.

Detroit tried in past years to address the issue, but between mayoral scandals, economic collapse and now a state takeover, the plight of the city’s homeless problem has once again settled into a mostly silent backseat.

“No one’s talking about it anymore within the city government”, says the director of a local housing shelter. “There’s just no conceptual vision on what to do about homelessness.”

Mind-Boggling Number of Homeless

The statistics on homelessness in Detroit are mind-boggling. Of the approximately 20,000 homeless people in Detroit, there are only enough shelter beds for about 1,900.

Twenty-five percent of the homeless are children, 13% are veterans, about 60% are families with children and almost half are mentally ill. State mental institutions closures, shelter shutdowns and early prison release programs have literally pushed ill-prepared people into the streets of Detroit, adding to an already dire situation.

The remaining shelters are full, often turning people away and furiously trying to provide basic survival services to people who are often hungry, cold, ill and traumatized.

“There’s no hope here for these people,” says David Allen, homeless services at Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO). “They don’t even know what it is anymore.”

The Tumaini Center on Third Avenue, run by NSO, gets a daily reality check of Detroit’s homeless crisis. The Center is one of the few shelters that remain open 24 hours every day.

High Number With Mental Illness

It provides a respite to 150 people a day on a first-come basis. But there is a catch: there are no beds, only chairs. Residents enter a bleak, bright room after passing through a metal detector. Well over 90% of the people there suffer from mental illness. Outside an assorted crowd of homeless people and drug dealers (food stamps for crack) congregate.

The hospitals and jails routinely drop people off, including recently a person who is a quadriplegic, as well as post-surgery patients, people who have frostbite or are  disoriented or deathly ill.

“We’re a dumping ground, there’s a lot of broken spirits here,” says Reggie Huff, Tumaini’s Director of Homeless Services.

Last month a woman gave birth there and EMS took her to the hospital. She was returned two days later with the baby, but the shelter doesn’t accept children.

Recently a man sitting on a chair keeled over and died. It was a another anonymous person picked up by the morgue and untracked by the city.

One Homeless Man Was a Harlem Globetrotter

The Center’s regular residents include a former Harlem Globetrotter and a Houston Astro. Their glory days over, the Center is now their last resort. “This is the last rung,” says Joe Healy, NSO’s VP of Real Estate Development and Management.

All of the homeless shelters in the city face similar challenges, leaving many of the staff feeling overwhelmed and not particularly optimistic.

Lewis Hickson has been fighting for the homeless in Detroit for over 40 years, going back to the early days of Gleaners and C.O.T.S.

Currently the Operations Manager at Tunaimi, Hickson does not believe he’s ever seen real leadership from the city on homelessness, “and it’s even less of a priority now” in light of the appointment of the Emergency Manager.

‘The city is just unfocused on homelessness. I’m discouraged”, he says.

Burden Rests With Nonprofits

As Hickson sees it, the real leaders are the nonprofit organizations operating to eliminate homelessness, all linked to the diligent leadership of the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (H.A.N.D). H.A.N.D. serves as the strategic quarterback for solutions to homelessness in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. Members include many of the brightest local visionaries, yet they encounter constant barriers to success, often from Lansing.

Many shelter workers see politically popular proposals as merely a prescription for more homelessness.

Proposed legislation to cut off welfare benefits for failed drug testers, for example, or laws seeking to eliminate social services for certain criminals may be ostensibly appealing, but for those battling the city’s homeless crisis these laws “will only put more people into homelessness” notes Allen.

Lawmakers, he says, “just don’t get it”.

Soon the mayoral race will heat up, and we will hear grandiose plans for the city’s rebirth. We’ll want to believe it’s all possible. But if the city fails to truly launch and lead an all-out war on homelessness, Detroiters will be talking about its even greater homeless crisis in a generation.

Feeding The Hungry

By Lori Dube

When Larry Oleinick, the founder of Heart 2 Hart Detroit (H2HD), handed out his first package of food to a homeless man in Detroit’s Hart Plaza this past summer, it didn’t just feel right; it also felt familiar.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s at Passover, the living room in the Oleinick’s Oak Park home became an assembly line for creating care packages — with donated matzah, fruit and macaroons — for Jewish people living in Detroit.

The annual matzah delivery project was started by Oleinick’s father, Milton, working with the late Rabbi Solomon Gruskin of the Congregation B’nai Zion shul in Oak Park. Those Passover pilgrimages were Downtown not far from where Oleinick ventures now, three times a week, during the summer heat and the winter freeze to feed, clothe and connect with the city’s less fortunate.

“My dad taught us the importance of tzedekah, of giving back, of helping out anyone in need,” says Oleinick. “And my mom, Cru, had a heart of gold and would lend an ear to anyone who wanted to talk. What I am doing through Heart 2 Hart Detroit is an extension and a way of honoring what I learned from my folks.”

These days, Oleinick, with help from friends and relatives Ken Levy, Jeffrey Markowitz, Mark Jacobs, Harriet Kirsch, Allan Oleinick and Bill Briggs, is reaching out to a broader community than Jewish people in need. They are acting upon the fundamentally Jewish principle of tikkun olam — repairing the world — to help address Detroit’s homeless issue.

“We now hand out a dozen to 18 lunches three times a week on the streets in Downtown Detroit. I know what we are doing doesn’t solve the problem,” says Oleinick. “But if we hand food to one person that hasn’t eaten that day, or give a coat to someone who is living under the expressway overpass in the freezing cold, I know we are doing something worthwhile.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, and we do that with each package we hand out and each individual we look in the eye and ask if they need shoes or socks or underwear.”

Oleinick also knows that building partnerships with individuals, businesses and organizations is the best way to have a real impact on the homeless situation. That is why his family, cousins, childhood friends and local suburban businesses and organizations like the Detroit Pistons, Tappers, the Shirt Box and Superior Materials Holdings have all come on board with the H2HD mission and have supported its work. H2HD is also networking with B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region and the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue for contributions of clothing and toiletries and programming possibilities.

With its 501(c)(3) status in the works, H2HD, along with its board of directors, is looking to expand the mission to include more daily deliveries of lunches and clothing. Since it began in June, H2HD has distributed more than 1,000 lunches and given away more than 250 each of coats, new socks and new underwear.

“I’m proud to be a part of H2HD and offer any support I can to help them fulfill their goals of feeding and clothing Detroit’s homeless,” says Mark Jacobs of Farmington Hills, chairperson of the H2HD board of directors and also a childhood friend of Oleinick’s. “I’ve gone to Africa to help provide clean drinking water to people, but when I made the delivery Downtown with H2HD, I saw the profound needs that exist in our own backyard.”

Oleinick adds, “For me, Passover will always be a time to be with my family and to give to others. This year’s deliveries won’t have matzah in them, but they still represent the L’dor Vador tradition started by my father that I am proud to continue all year long through Heart 2 Hart Detroit.”

For more information on how to contribute or get involved with Heart 2 Hart Detroit you can visit the website at

By Lori Dube|Special to the Jewish News