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MONROE - Fairview, a transitional shelter for chronically disabled homeless people, will soon lose long time Superintendent Joe Grifka to retirement.
However, Mr. Grifka, who is only the second person to direct operations of the Monroe County-owned home, plans to remain committed to helping the area's unhoused population.
A licensed real estate agent, Mr. Grifka, 62, hopes to sell homes when he is not traveling with his wife or volunteering on more than a half-dozen committees.
Among his unpaid retirement endeavors will be seeing the county's 10-year plan to end the homelessness come to fruition. Mr. Grifka was among the homeless advocates to implement the strategy about three years ago.
He also plans to continue raising funds for the homeless through his membership in the Monroe County Association of Realtors, where he is chairman of the group's public relations committee.
"The prime purpose of the committee is to raise funds for the homeless. I am still on the executive steering committee of the 10-year plan to end homelessness," he said. "I am on a list of committees as long as your arm."
A 1965 graduate of Bedford High School and a graduate of Michigan State University, Mr. Grifka came to Fairview in 1980 after working as a juvenile case worker in Ingham County.
Mr. Grifka said the purpose of Fairview has remained the same throughout his tenure: getting men and women with psychological and emotional disabilities or substance abuse dependencies well enough sothey can leave the shelter and take care of themselves in their own homes.
Once the county infirmary/retirement home, Fairview has room for 36 clients. It is funded with the Social Security payments of residents and funding from the state.
About 80 residents moved through the transitional shelter last year. Many of the clients served by Fairview are afflicted with serious mental disabilities such as schizophrenia, alcohol or drug addiction, and chronic diseases.
At Fairview, the residents get help in signing up for disability assistance and treatment for medical and psychological problems.
In his nearly 30 years in working with shelters, Mr. Grifka has noted a societal change in the perception of the homeless and the programs that addresses their needs.
He said treating the medical conditions of the disabled homeless is far cheaper than putting them in jail or institutions or allowing them to live in the streets, where they tend to ricochet through the system.
"We are just not providing beds. We are doing oversight in the providing of health care. We are providing care management services to make sure they are getting the appropriate referrals and transportation to get to doctors, dentists, and other services," he said.
Jeff Weaver, co-founder of God Works, which provides community meals in churches throughout the county, praised Mr. Grifka as a tireless volunteer for the homeless.
"We are going to miss him. He has a wonderful heart. He was made for the job that he is retiring from," said Mr. Weaver.
Mr. Grifka has also served in leadership positions for Homeless Awareness Week, the Human Services Collaborative Network, the United Way campaign, and the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.
Among the organizations that Mr. Grifka will continue in a volunteer capacity with are the Friends of Fairview and the Aging Blueprint Housing Committee.