Lansing homelessness rates continue to increase, despite state decrease

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Courtesy of The Congregation of Every1

The Congregation of Every1 volunteers and founder Jeff Hocking gather for a photo at one of their many outreach programs.

LANSING, Mich.—There are at least 515 unhoused people in Lansing on any given night, according to a report from The National Allegiance To End Homelessness. Organizations like City Rescue Mission of Lansing and The Congregation of Every1 (COE) show that it takes a lot of people to help a lot of people. 

“Last year, we provided 365 meals every day. So that’s a little over 133,000 meals last year,” said Laura Grimwood, senior director of community engagement at The City Rescue Mission.

For 113 years, The City Rescue Mission of Lansing has prided itself on providing “food, shelter, and hope” to those who need it most. They have a number of locations that offer a variety of services, such as a dining room on Michigan Avenue that offers food to anyone who may need it, a men’s shelter, a women’s shelter and The Outreach, which is designed to help individuals who may struggle in a typical shelter environment.

“We helped 244 people each night last year,” Grimwood said. “The year before we were at 197 people per night. So it’s just a substantial increase from 2022 to 2023. We basically just do what we can to make capacity. We’ve been operating beyond capacity.”

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Jeff Hocking, a Michigan resident working to help those struggling with homelessness, began the COE organization after his own experience with homelessness COE uses donations to make 150-200 “SurvivalPaks”, which are backpacks that are filled with necessities for those who need it and distributed once every month. 

“Our SurvivalPaks have been curated by the homeless themselves, they tell us what we need in the packs and that’s what we put in them,” Hocking said.

Duct tape, tarps, black garbage bags, lighters and flashlights help people to make and repair shelters, shoes, clothing and lots of non-perishable food. Depending on the season, socks, shirts, bug spray, blankets and sunscreen are also frequently added to the packs when supplies are available.

Both Hocking and Grimwood expressed how simple it is for someone to end up without a place to stay. Hocking said that it takes only a string of three or four bad things to happen, and Grimwood shared that the stress of housing costs post-pandemic combined with mental health struggles can be enough to put someone in a bad place.

“Addiction or mental health issues don’t always factor into becoming homeless. Some of these people are just like us, but they had no family or safety net when things went wrong,” Hocking said.

Post-pandemic hardships have put an extra strain on organizations like these, but Lansing isn’t only handling Michigan residents.

Although Lansing’s rate of homelessness has increased 8.19% increase 2019, shelters are also learning how to handle those who come from outside of the state.

“There’s oftentimes the idea that Lansing will be able to help because Michigan has better services. I have definitely heard of that, where people were recommended to come here because the state where they were living does not provide the same kind of services that they would get in a state like Michigan,” Grimwood said. “[They may be] coming from Chicago, or they might be coming from the south.”

Grimwood also shared that although the number of people can be a challenge to accommodate, it is a good sign that more people are hearing about the work that they do and are able to receive help from them. 

Moving forward, The City Rescue Mission of Lansing plans to continue to broaden its capacity and welcome all who need a place to stay, and COE plans to stay local and stay personal.

“To me, that’s the only way to get people into transitional housing, through interpersonal connection,” said Hocking.

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