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Homeless shelters see increase in COVID-19 cases

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 5:42 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As COVID-19 cases ride throughout the Greater Lansing area, homeless shelters are among those experiencing an uptick in cases. This has some shelters concerned as temperatures get colder.

Gabriel Biber, Executive Director of the Haven House in East Lansing, says that they already see an increase in those who need shelter due to the cold.

“The need can increase in the wintertime so some of the other shelters in the community especially those that are dealing with individual adults, will tend to see a sharp increase in the winter months.”

At Haven House, Biber says they work with primarily families with children.

Mark Criss, Executive Director of the City Rescue Mission in Lansing says they are already seeing numbers rise.

“Recently we’ve had some cases, beginning last week, several cases in the women’s and children’s shelter and the Ingham County Health Department was unable to quarantine them off-site, so we had to quarantine them onsite,” Criss said. “And then a couple of days ago we had six more positives, and then 13 positives at the women’s and children’s shelter, of roughly 100 women and kids. So our concern is going to grow exponentially.”

Last year, the City Rescue Mission saw 2,000 people walk through their doors. Of them, less than 1% had positive cases. This year, these numbers were matched in just one week.

Criss says that this increase of cases comes months after many shelters completely reopened their doors. This week he was forced to close the doors to one of his shelters to a new intake. However, he says they are doing everything they can to reopen new faces.

“Our guests are extremely thankful that our doors are open. And so, over the past week, we had to close our door to new intake. But we’re not closed, we’re busy every day,” said Criss.

Biber says the need to help and house families will always be there, pandemic or not.

“When we are here at Haven House and a family comes in and needs help-- often it’s not a family that’s been homeless before,” Biber said. “Or a family that’s been living on the street, it’s just a family that had a sudden dip in their income or an unexpected bill that came up and they weren’t able to make ends meet.”

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