The middle of winter brings Michigan freezing temperatures, but volunteers in the Greater Lansing area braved the cold late January to count the number of people living on the streets and inform them of shelters, this is called the point in time count and the number reported determines how much funding will be provided to programs aimed at helping the homeless.
Once those in need visit the food or homeless shelters warm embraces are felt all around. People leave the cold behind for a few hours of shelter and a hot meal. A meal which was prepared on this particular Sunday fully by volunteers who gave up a weekend sleeping in to help out those in need. Volunteers such as first time volunteer Kata Rothhorn.
Rothhorn and her father walked from their home which is about 10 minutes away from the Advent house shelter at 8 a.m. Once arriving she got her job assignment and got to work.
“I was part of the fruit and toast team and we arranged the fruit in six different platters, ” she said “I didn’t have a main job as serving, i mostly went back and forth, serving the food was kind of chaotic.”
Advent house, a weekend day shelter in lansing, served over 34,000 meals last year alone to both homeless and non-homeless people in need of food. They serve families with children as well as single adults and also provide literacy classes and job training. While this shelter in particular doesnt house people over night, others in the lansing area offer the opportunity for a bed to those that dont have one.
Susan Cancro, Executive Director of Advent House, believes that organizations meant to help the homeless are doing what they can to get the word out about their services. She said, “at this point i’d say every shelter that houses single adults has some outreach to the community to let people know that they’re there, make sure they know they can come in from the cold.”
In 2013 there were nearly 5,000 people counted as homeless in the lansing area, more than half were families and children who use assistance programs such as those provided by Advent House.
The programs are there to lend a helping hand and Cancro believes they can be a stepping stone in people getting back on their feet. “Homelessness is generally not anyones fault. It’s a series of circumstances that culminate in the person losing resources,” she said.
While the numbers for this years point in time count have not been released yet last years count showed 429 people living on the streets around this time, 89 of which were children.