As evening approaches, a small crowd starts to gather outside the doors of City Rescue Mission. Varied backpacks and plastic bags filled with belongings pile up at their feet. On the adjacent corner, a man paces back and forth with a cardboard sign.
Living day to day without stable housing is a reality for many residents throughout the community. With poverty rates in Lansing well above national average, the community offers the homeless population a variety of resources.
Standing on the corner of East Michigan Avenue and Larch Street, Lansing resident Reginald Williams put down his sign that read “Homeless Grateful for Help” and pointed across the street to City Rescue Mission.
“I use them as a place to stay sometimes,” Williams said.
The goals of City Rescue Mission are to meet physical and spiritual needs. According to their 2015 Annual Report, 104,118 meals were served.
“I tell everyone homelessness is very complex,” director of communications for City Rescue Mission of Lansing Laura Grimwood said. “Sometimes you have people coming in from domestic violence situations so obviously their needs are different from someone who, it was a case that, they lost their job out of maybe illness or a child’s illness and they just couldn’t get back to work. Then of course sometimes we have men come, as well, that are coming from prison so it really is dependent on the individual.”
According to the Greater Lansing Area 2015 Annual Homeless Report, 4,969 people experienced homelessness in 2015 in Ingham County. 60 percent of the homeless families were led by single mothers.
“I think there is a lot of evidence over time that there are relationships both between race and poverty and single family parent households,” professor and director of Michigan State University’s School of Social Work and poverty expert Steven Anderson said. “The rates are a lot higher for single parent families by a very large margin.”
Hannah’s House of Lansing specializes in providing assistances for homeless and single mothers. Different than an emergency shelter, Hannah’s House is a maternity shelter and long term program that requires an application and interview.
“You can stay as long as you want but if you follow our program you can stay throughout your pregnancy and up to nine months after your baby is born or anytime before that,” house manager of Hannah’s House of Lansing Abby Thorn said. “If you have got yourself a job and a place to live, if all of those things are falling into place, we encourage you to stay and to save money and to pay off any debts you might have so you don’t fall back into a pattern of homelessness in the future.”
Thorn says when women first come into the program they look at whether the individual has a high school diploma or a GED. From there, they determine what suits their personality and needs at the moment.
“There’s a lot of relationship between poverty and academic obtainment,” Anderson said. “So just taking those things into account, kids coming out of heavy poverty situations, particularly concentrated ones are likely to be disadvantaged in terms of the quality of learning they have.”
Thorn said that Hannah’s House works with the woman in the house by teaching them skills and requiring them to get involved in programs that will support them from falling back into chronic homelessness. One program they are required to use is Pathway of Hope provided by The Salvation Army.
Pathway of Hope is a goal oriented program that works with individuals long term and in case management style. South Lansing Corps, Corps Officer Lt. Dalvius King said that most of the patrons that come to Pathway of Hope are at least 150 percent below poverty level.
“It’s a goal oriented program that is client driven. We actually help them to, look at their lives and what they need to get themselves out of their current level of poverty,” King said. “And as they achieve their goals we hold them up a little bit further and kind of graduate them out of the program because once they are at that point when they are starting to achieve goals, they start to recognize what they are going to need.”
According to the Greater Lansing Area 2015 Annual Homeless Report, 2015 saw a 1.8 percent decrease in homelessness from 2014, however the community continues towards lowering that significance.
“Our community is very generous and compassionate,” Grimwood said. “Lansing is kind of known for that. So we have a wide array of service available for people and that’s great. There are areas where we probably could work on but I wouldn’t want to say the exclusion of what we are already doing.”