THURSDAY, April 2 — A hefty donation is en route to several local charities as city officials aim to protect some of Greater Lansing’s most vulnerable amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cities of East Lansing and Lansing announced plans today to donate up to $30,000 to support a regional homelessness support network. The cash will be split up between Holy Cross, Advent House Ministries, Haven House and other local charities to help the homeless.
“We cannot allow COVID-19 to spread throughout our most vulnerable population,” Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said today in a press release. “Lansing is proud to answer the call to assist our regional homeless population by providing dollars to ensure this work can be done.”
Today’s announcement follows a series of stories published in City Pulse on the topic. One published yesterday showed that local homeless shelters had reached capacity and were struggling to provide support for the more than two dozen people living outside in Lansing.
Lansing dedicated $20,000 from its “Basic Human Needs” fund; East Lansing pitched in $10,000 from its general fund. The cash will help the homeless community — particularly those without access to shelter — with necessary resources for hygiene and social distancing.
“We will continue to work closely with shelters to ensure that they have proper spacing and medical capacity,” Schor added. “And we will now also assist as shelters provide service and safety elements to those who are not or cannot be sheltered. I urge others throughout the region to join in supporting this cause to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Michigan has tracked nearly 10,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus over the last three weeks. Concerns of transmission among the homeless are often exacerbated by crowded living quarters, extreme stress, inadequate health care and poor hygiene, nutrition and sleep.
While no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among the homeless in Lansing, two local homeless people have been labeled with “presumptive positive” cases and have been quarantined at an unnamed hotel in Lansing until they can be tested for the disease.
Many local advocates fear that a surge of confirmed COVID-19 cases among the homeless is inevitable. And at least as of this week, options for shelter were running dry.
Homeless shelters in Greater Lansing were at their limit last week. The Rescue Mission’s shelter on Michigan Avenue was maxed out with 80 guests and isn’t accepting overnight stays until April 13, an effort that also mandates existing guests stay inside and isolated from others.
Officials at New Hope Community Center can sometimes find space as some of their 88 guests leave to find other places to stay, but officials expect those openings to be fewer and further between. Volunteers are working around the clock to find as much support as possible, in some cases putting people up in local hotels, but resources — and physical space — is still limited.
Hopes remain high for plans to launch a larger overflow space soon, including the possibility of using local hotels or other mostly vacant buildings in Lansing. Shelters are also being forced to lean more heavily on temporary staffing as the number of volunteers continues to dwindle.
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