THURSDAY, Sept. 7 — Facing growing demand, the City Rescue Mission is looking to move its men's homeless shelter on Michigan Avenue to two buildings on Kalamazoo Street near the Capitol Complex.
The new location would also provide a women's shelter.
“We’ve been operating at capacity since the fall of last year,” Laura Grimwood, the rescue mission’s senior communications director, said. “We actually broke our record this month: We had 279 people.”
Grimwood said the mission has made contingent offers on the two buildings. One, 415 W. Kalamazoo, is owned by Set Seg Insurance Agencies Inc. and is occupied by a law firm. The other, next door at 421 W. Kalamazoo, was sold to the Michigan Corrections Organization by Set Seg in January 2022. Set Seg moved to East Lansing. The two properties are between Walnut and Chestnut streets.
The rescue mission operates a men’s shelter at 607 E. Michigan Ave., across from the Capital City Market, and a shelter for women and children at 2216 S. Cedar St., In 2021, the shelters accommodated a nightly average of 138 people, which rose to 182 in 2021 and 245 in the first six months of 2023.
If the City Council approves the request, Grimwood said the rescue mission would convert the space on Michigan to a service kitchen. The plan would also move the Cedar Street shelter for single adult women to Kalamazoo, which would free up additional space on Cedar Street for women with children.
The City Council has scheduled a public hearing at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 on rezoning the property for a special land use permit to operate a sheltered care facility at these locations.
The city’s Planning Commission voted 5-1 on Aug. 1 to recommend the zoning change. At-large member Monte Jackson opposed the request. Jackson said he had concerns about the potential for increased foot traffic and loitering near the site.
During public comment, Don Morrison of Executive House LLC, which owns an apartment building at 420 S. Walnut St., and Julie Lawton-Essa and Dan Essa of Metro Place Apartments, 301 W. Lenawee St., spoke against the project. Patrick Smith of City View Apartments, 501 S. Capital Ave., submitted a letter expressing opposition. Rawley Van Fossen, executive director of the Capital Area Housing Partnership, spoke in support of the plan.
Both buildings would be remodeled in stages to maximize capacity, including an addition that would connect the two, eventually accommodating 200 men and 100 women, Grimwood said. Including the Cedar Street facility, the mission’s capacity would grow from 210 to 400 or more.
One lingering question involves what might be done with the 147-year-old Glaister House, 402 S. Walnut St, on the southwest corner of Kalamazoo and Walnut, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2017. The rescue mission also has an option to buy the house from Set Seg, which purchased it the same year. It has been vacant since.
The house was on a list of 10 endangered historic buildings that the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Preservation Lansing compiled last year.
“Unfortunately, we did tour it, and it's not in good repair at all. It’s been that way for a significant amount of time,” Grimwood said, adding that the mission hasn’t determined what it might do with the property.
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