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Cold Weather Hinders Homeless From Bettering Lives

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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 within minutes.

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.  

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