THERE ARE 421 UNDUPLICATED PEOPLE in Shiawassee County as of December 2017 that are legally classified as homeless within the homeless management system, with 55 percent of that number representing women and children. These statistics were shared during the Shiawassee County Homeless Coalition meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 17 by Becky Zemla, Shiawassee Center Coordinator for Capital Area Community Services, Inc. and chair for the homeless coalition.
The meeting, originally scheduled for Friday, Jan. 12, but delayed due to weather, was held at the Baker College Welcome Center on S. M-52. Approximately 45 community representatives attended the event from various organizations including Angel’s Hands Outreach in Westown, Walls of Warmth (WOW), MSU Extension, the Clothesline in Laingsburg, the Serene Bean, Sheriff Brian BeGole, and several other nonprofit groups. Everyone was there to listen to Executive Director Mark Criss (speaking) from the Lansing City Rescue Mission.
The Lansing City Rescue Mission is a nonprofit group organized to meet both the physical and spiritual (Christian) needs of the homeless population residing in the Lansing area (and beyond). It is currently the largest shelter in the capital area, providing shelter and food for around 150 men, women, and children every night. Criss shared that he has seen a recent influx of homeless individuals seeking shelter from outlaying areas, and that has inspired him to reach out to both Clinton and Shiawassee counties with the concept of possibly starting a combined shelter, perhaps in Ovid. His research has led him to believe that an elementary school in the Ovid area could offer a secure starting point to helping the homeless from both counties get a fresh start.
It is worth noting that despite the recent economic increase, homelessness is still on the rise, and is actually up from 2016. SafeCenter Executive Director Shelly Safi shared that the Owosso SafeCenter on N. Hickory Street provided 5,200 “safe nights” in 2017. The organization was at 96 percent capacity on most nights, providing safety from both domestic and sexually violent situations. There were times when the SafeCenter was forced to turn people away.
The meeting turned into a brain-storming session with questions about
sustainability, funding, transportation, the stigma of homelessness, concerns over chronic homelessness, drug-abuse, prostitution, mental illness, locating necessary resources, and more. Representatives from WOW expressed that there were a number of homeless people with direct, familial ties to Owosso, or their hometowns, and that moving them to Ovid might be impractical.
Criss emphasized that his group was willing to offer the primary investment – possibly as much as $200,000 or more – but that their contribution needed to be available between both Clinton and Shiawassee counties. He also emphasized the fact that his organization is, in fact, an ecclesiastical church, and that helping the homeless is part of their mission as Christians. “We are a Christ-
centered organization,” he shared.
“This is all about a hand-up, not about a hand-out,” shared Christial Sierra from Angel’s Hands Outreach, located on M-21 in Westown. Sierra has been providing socks, coats, blankets, tents, food, and whatever is on hand, free of charge, to the local homeless population.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)

Shiawassee Homeless Coalition Holds Meetings was last modified: January 26th, 2018 by Karen Elford