LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) –
As subzero temperatures settle into Mid-Michigan overnight, homeless shelters
in Lansing overflow with people needing a warm and safe place to lie their
heads. However, homeless advocates say the struggle to stave off the cold can
hinder some from taking steps to better their lives in ways they would if the
weather was milder.
"We have…literacy and
employment programs that are very popular. But in this weather, because those
are longer term goals, people don't make it to the classes. They don't make it
in for services. And understandably, it's dangerously cold," said Susan Cancro,
executive director of the Advent House Ministries in Lansing. "They're doing what any of us would
to, which is to make sure I'm okay right now. I mean, it's so cold [they] can't
think about the future, so then the future suffers, and that's unfortunate."
Kimberly Jones said she's been homeless for years, and she wants to do better,
but this year, the cold stood in the way of achieving her goals. "I wanted to
do a lot of stuff like look for jobs," said Jones. "I thought I was going to
really do it this time, but the cold kind of kept me down. It made me afraid to
go out there and do what I need to do."
Cancro said when those looking to better themselves interrupt their routines,
they reduce their chances of long-term stability. Even seemingly simple tasks,
like catching a bus to make appointments with employment agencies, become
difficult when the weather gets extremely cold, because frostbite can set in
Patrick Patterson, executive vice president for Volunteers of America in Lansing said on Thursday
the shelter is in overflow capacity, and in his 15 years with the organization,
he's never seen need like this.
City officials said they'll be checking the streets overnight and directing the
homeless to shelters and out of the bitter cold.