A View from the Street: The Homeless in Lansing

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By Asha Dawsey
Listen Up, Lansing

“Homeless — Anything Helps” is what Jeremy Scott Emric’s sign says when he’s getting the attention of drivers but even when he gets nothing he flips the signIMG_0001 over as it reads “Even a Smile.”

Emric has been homeless for four months now after losing his job at a body shop when it burned down. After that his wife  left him and he has been on making his living on the streets of Michigan Avenue. 

“I have a couple people, I give them a little bit of money and they let me sleep on their couch … and so I hold my sign and I get enough money together for some food and to pay somebody to crash in their house,” said Emric.IMG_0005

Depending on the weather Emric stays out on Michigan Avenue for about six to seven hours along with a friend he met through his homelessness, Gary Whitney.

“I haven’t got off my butt and done anything about it,” said Whitney when asked why he is homeless.

In 2013 Michigan’s overall amount of homeless people was 11,527, according to the State of Homelessness in America 2014.

You get into a cycle where you just have instant money everyday instead of waiting two weeks to get a pay check and you just can’t wait, said Whitney.

In other cases being homeless can get to hard  to bear, said Michael Morrison.IMG_3204

Morrison was previously homeless for over a year in Lansing and that experience motived him to change, he said.

“Last year I lost my wife. She passed away during the Christmas holiday, I got real sick, really sick, and I was living in a house with no heat,” said Morrison, “Last year wasn’t a good year.”

Morrison is no longer homeless. He now owns a one bedroom apartment on the north end of town purchased from the money he saved from being on the streets.

IMG_3202Many aren’t as luck as Morrison when is comes to getting out of homelessness. The greatest  cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing, poverty, and unemployment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“No responsibilities, no wife,” said Whitney. “I just been out here messin’ around.”

Even out of that amount in Michigan only small portions take advantage of homeless shelters in their area. Laura Grimwood, Communications Director at City Rescue Mission of Lansing said she witnesses the constant amount of 151 people that come to the shelterIMG_3203 every night.

“It will be 15 years next month that I have been working and volunteering at the shelter and when it’s warm out the homeless people don’t want to go to the shelter because they can’t drink and smoke, which is crazy,” said Lansing resident Nancy Jackson.

“It is unfortunate, its just overnight, and federally they can’t smoke in the room and drinking thats a large part of safety, its a community living environment when people are under the influence they can’t control their body. We have to make sure guests and staff are safe. Unfortunate that some people are just attracted to smoking,” said Grimwood.

Some homeless citizens don’t feel the comfort of being in the homeless shelters, said Whitney.

IMG_3220“I’ve never ever stayed at the shelter, I’ve heard they’re full of bed bugs and stuff like that,” said Emric.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report, 58 percent of them were living in shelters and transitional housing and, 42 percent were unsheltered.

Even though the shelter doesn’t get to all of the homeless people in Lansing the people they do effect makes a big difference in their life and hers as well, said Gimwood.

“The small everyday things we see them as small but they’re huge for people when you lose everything. Those small things become so important, and we’re able to provide that,” said Grimwood.

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