Lansing Homeless Shelters Near Capacity

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

The dangerously cold weather effects everyone, but none more than mid-Michigan's homeless population. Lansing's largest homeless shelter is near capacity -- and expecting to be more than full late Saturday.

"It's dangerously cold today," said Patrick Patterson, vice president of operations for Lansing's Volunteers of America.

With temperatures dipping down toward zero, you might have endured a chilly trip to the grocery store. A frigid dash back to the car. You might even have suffered through a brief but brutal walk to get something warm to eat or drink.

If you spent any more time outside then that -- you really felt it. But no one feels the cold more than mid-Michigan's homeless.

"People have died of exposure in Lansing who are homeless," Patterson said.

Volunteers of America runs the city's largest homeless shelter. The wintry weather has the shelter's bedrooms near capacity.

"We're full with women and children. We have two beds open on the mind's side," Patterson said.

It's not that unusual. Patterson says the shelter is usually close to full during the winter. At times like this, he says, space does get a bit tighter.

"It's likely we'll pick up an extra four to six people," Patterson said.

The shelter is working with other overnight homeless programs in Lansing to make sure everyone has a place to stay warm.

Patterson says most of the Lansing's 700 homeless people are in shelters year-round -- especially during the winter. So, who holds out until the coldest of cold nights?

"The folks who tend to stay out the longest are the most distrustful of other people. Usually some mental illness going on there," Patterson said.

Those last few holdouts will find an open door at the V-o-A's emergency men's shelter. On most nights, if the shelter is full -- well, it's full. Not now.

"When it's this cold outside, we'll bascially put them on the floor on mattresses. It's better than sleeping outside," he said.

Patterson says five men died sleeping outside last year.

-- in Lansing, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.


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