LANSING — As of January 2019, there are about 419 people who are homeless on a given night and 14.4 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population in Lansing, East Lansing, and Ingham County, according to National Alliance to End homelessness.
Being homeless is tough, but being homeless during a pandemic is even more challenging.
During the pandemic there has been a slight increase of people who have visited or stayed at the homeless shelters due to weather, finances, and of course Covid-19, according to Laura Grimwood, senior director of community engagement for the City Rescue Mission of Lansing.
The City Rescue Mission of Lansing is a nonprofit Christian ministry serving Michigan’s capital area and is a part of a coalition of shelters in Lansing. They welcome women, children, and men to find refuge and shelter.
The long-term goal of the City Rescue Mission is focused on permanent supportive housing rather than temporary shelters.
“City Rescue Mission of Lansing has been able to stay open throughout this entire pandemic,” said Grimwood.
Grimwood has been working for the mission since December 2004.
Although certain circumstances have changed with the pandemic, the organization’s goal has remained the same. It has provided food, shelter and caseworkers to help the homeless get back on their feet.
Grimwood says altogether the group houses around 200 people daily.
The women’s and children’s shelter and the men’s shelter each has a capacity of 80 people, and the drop-in center can house 40 people. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing has been beneficial in not having any major outbreaks at the facilities.
“We are always very cautious about cleaning and having everything cleaned,” Grimwood said. “We did institute mask requirements throughout the facilities.”
People who are not staying at the facilities are able to take to-go boxes because they are not allowed to come into the dining room.
Length of stay is about 30 days, but there are extended-stay opportunities for people who need more time. People who stay past the 30 days are required to help around the facilities and meet with a casework coordinator to help end their homelessness.
Several homeless people in Lansing stay at makeshift camps near Frandor Shopping Center and on the north side of Lansing. Others find shelter at local organizations.
“Homelessness is a concern and always will be a concern,” said Kimberly Coleman, Lansing director of human relations and community services. “There are people who are homeless by chance and unintended and then there are folks who choose not to be sheltered.”
Coleman says the state of homelessness in the city is not good.
“Much of our work with the homeless population is centered around contracting with agencies within the community that can carry out service to make sure their needs were met,” said Coleman.
Director Coleman mentioned that “the numbers of the homeless population have increased slightly over this pandemic, but it is not an ongoing number.”
“They were very few cases of Covid-19 and that is something we are really proud of,” said Coleman.
Personal protective equipment has been really important, Coleman said.
Spacing people out, practicing social distance, and wearing masks was something that helped keep the cases low and the staff and residents safe.
“The homeless population has really done well steering clear of the pandemic,” Coleman said. “They have their own little community and so they don’t socialize in the same places we socialize in, so they didn’t act like the rest of us did, but there were a few cases of it.”
Coleman said that in order to decrease the homeless population in Lansing it is going to take affordable housing.
As of Monday, Feb. 8, homeless people will be able to get the Covid-19 vaccine, which was one of Governor Whitmer’s mandates she made on March 2, 2021.