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 sign 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. 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.
LANSING – As temperatures plummet in months surrounding the holidays, greater concern and attention for the homeless population is given. While aid and support during the winter months is very appreciated by local Lansing shelters and homeless individuals personally, homelessness is not seasonal. “I’ve been working here [Jersey Giant, a sandwich shop] since early fall, and it’s pretty consistent all throughout the year. I’ve seen at least six to seven homeless people a day in this area since I’ve started, regardless of the weather,” said Mason Hannah of Lansing, in reference to the traffic stops near U.S. Highway 127 on East Saginaw Street and East Grand River Avenue. According to data provided by the Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness’ website, there are more than 86,000 homeless people in Michigan, with over one-third of the homeless being the working poor.
Subzero temperatures this winter have made it tough for secondhand stores and homeless shelters in Lansing, not because of a greater demand for their services but because volunteers hesitated to venture out to donate their belongings or their time. Donations lacking
Debra Kelly, the assistant manager at Hidden Treasures Thrift Store, said that the store’s goal is to “be real and resourceful and meet all the needs” regardless of the season. “Whether it’s the winter or summer, there are so many in need,” she said. “The demand is much greater than the supply.”
Kelly said that the cold winter significantly limited donations compared to what the store normally receives at this point in the year. “The cold has kept people kind of in a slumber,” she said. “The ice storms, the winter, the cold weather – it’s the same for most of the surrounding retail in the community.”
This is certainly true for Upscale Thrift, a secondhand store operated through the City Rescue Mission, according to employee Hannah Hall. “I think that the cold weather and the amount of snow on the roads definitely affected business,” Hall said.