A View from the Street: The Homeless in Lansing

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.

Area thrift stores, shelters affected by unusually cold winter

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.

Invisible, unemployed, more women vets homeless

Capital News Service
LANSING – A growing number of female veterans in the state are living in the streets or homeless shelters, according to the Michigan Women’s Commission. About 45,400 female veterans live in Michigan, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. Michigan has no specific program targeting homeless female veterans, but efforts are being made to improve their access to all programs, said Susy Avery, executive director of the commission. A rough estimate of homeless veterans in the state is 4,000, but there is no data on female ones, said Angela Simpson, deputy public affairs officer for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Nationally, the number of female veterans doubled from 4 to 8 percent between 1990 and 2010.

Michigan Welfare Limit Raises Questions

By Katie Harrington
Old Town Times staff writer

The new four-year limit on families receiving welfare in Michigan has raised questions about increased crime and homelessness in Old Town. Sheila Maxwell, an Associate Professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice, said that since the assumption is that the people who are being taken off welfare really need assistance, there would be a lot of people in trouble.  “[The senate] didn’t want people to abuse welfare, but if these people indeed really did need assistance, they would be out on the street,” Maxwell said. “Whenever you see people removed from welfare rolls, you can expect to see an increase in crime and disorder,” said Bonnie Bucqueroux, former associate director of the National Center for Community Policing at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice.  “For a community like Old Town, my concern would be an increase in shoplifting, panhandling, prostitution and street corner drug sales.”

Lansing Police Lt. Noel Garcia said he would not speculate about possible outcomes and that the police department currently doesn’t have any strategies to deal with the issues if they do come up. “I would think police would want to get ahead of the issue rather than play catch up,” said Bucqueroux. Judy Putnam, the communications director for the Michigan League for Human Services, said there is no concern for increased homelessness and crime in the Lansing area.  “I don’t think we should assume that because people are low income they are criminals,” Putnam said.  “And we have to remember that Ingham County is not going to be affected as much as other counties because there are only 70 cases of people losing their assistance here.”

In fact, Ingham County is ranked number 12 on the list of most families being affected by the measure.  Wayne County is number one with 6,560 families affected.