Lansing plans a 24-hour warming shelter to succeed Letts facility

City is considering proposals for location to open in November


(Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story mistakenly identified Lansing’s Human Relations and Community Services Director Kim Coleman as Human Resources Director Elizabeth O’Leary. Also, the headline on the previous version of the story referred to the Letts Warming Center as "troubled." The headline was intended to reflect initial problems with Letts, including opening later than expected last year and being unable to accommodate children or provide cots because the facility lacks a sprinkler system, which caused the fire marshall to declare it unsafe for sleeping. As a clarification, the headline was not intended to indicate any personal safety problems. Finally, because of an editing error, the original story said that the city was abandoning Letts. City spokesperson Scott Bean said that the city never intended to use Letts Community Center as a shelter beyond April 30.)

WEDNESDAY, April 17— The city of Lansing plans to establish a 24-hour “alternative temporary homeless shelter" to replace the Letts Warming Center.

Human Relations and Community Services Director Kim Coleman said the new shelter would accommodate 75 to 100 people and could open as early as November.

Letts, 1220 W. Kalamazoo St., which opened in December, is limited in its services because it does not have a sprinkler system. That meant it could not offer cots for overnight use or even allow children.

An operating agreement for Letts with the Detroit Rescue Mission will expire April 30, Coleman told the City Council on Monday, and the city still has the $800,000 state appropriation that was meant to fund it.

Instead, Coleman said, the funds can be used to operate the new shelter, which differs from the warming center in that it would be open 24 hours for people of all ages, who will be able to sleep there.

“The warming center was not intended to be the solution but an option for this season, because it was important to us to get people out of the cold,” Coleman said. “The intent now is to provide the type of shelter that the funds were intended to provide.”

In addition to the $800,000 in state funds, Mayor Andy Schor has recommended $179,059 be provided for the temporary shelter in the 2024-‘25 fiscal year budget.

Coleman said Letts’ cost to operate for seven months should not exceed $110,000.

Her department issued a request for proposals for the development of the proposed shelter facility, which included potential locations, on March 2. It garnered three responses from KT Solutions Inc., Pallet PBC and JT 2 Engineering and Construction, none local.

“HRCS staff and members of the advisory board are currently considering proposals for the structure and city-owned properties to identify the best option to address the needs. A recommendation will be submitted to the mayor within the next two weeks,” Coleman said.

She added that the proposed shelter will be “in an essential and easily accessible area of the city,” which she did not identify.

“It will provide temporary housing, improved access to services, reduce the strain on existing shelter facilities and continue to contribute to the overall well-being and stability of our city,” Coleman said.

The need for the new shelter comes as homelessness in Lansing has been steadily rising in recent years. Coleman said that “the hopes were to help supplement, not totally replace, the shelter services that are currently out there, until such a time that they weren’t needed.”

“It is our understanding that the largest shelter, the City Rescue Mission, should be up and running at full capacity in three years” at its new location on Kalamazoo Street and that Holy Cross "will have some expansion before then — but not enough to cover the people needed,” Coleman added.

The next step will come next month, when a second RFP  will be issued to determine which organization would operate the new shelter once it's opened.

Luna Brown, a Lansing resident who has frequently expressed the need for a shelter that’s not tied to any religious organization and that would be more inclusive for members of the city’s LGBTQ population, is cautiously optimistic about the project.

“At the very least, it will be a shelter for Lansing that won't force religious services or discriminate, which is needed in Lansing,” she said, adding that it “sounds like progress” is being made toward that goal.

warming center, homeless, shelter, services, Andy Schor, Lansing, city, grant, funds, Michigan, Kim Coleman, City Rescue Mission, Holy Cross, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries


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