Early-season arctic blast hits homeless hard; VOAMI responds with overtime, volunteers and prayers

The homeless and vulnerable face life-threatening conditions with an early and sustained arctic blast. Volunteers of America Michigan's shelter and homeless service center in Lansing is responding, but already is being pushed to limits typically seen in the depths of winter.

The shelter opened up overflow space Friday night, Dec. 9, and continued providing overflow beds over the following five nights. At one point, 23 overflow beds were needed. As of today, Dec. 15, there was no end in sight.

During official declarations of "cold weather emergencies," every effort is made to ensure nobody is left outside under life-threatening conditions. Volunteers of America calls in extra staff and recruits volunteers to help. Policies are waived allowing the early return of clients who were banned for behavior violations. Cooperative arrangements with other shelters are stepped up.

All of this comes at a cost, and this winter it came much earlier than usual.

In addition to overtime expenses, the increased service puts wear and tear on the building. More linens are used and must be laundered more frequently. And managing the crisis requires the full attention of agency leadership.

Most of all, in dangerous weather like this, we worry about the homeless and vulnerable whose comfort, health and lives are at risk.

But there are ways for ALL people to help.

  • Pray. Volunteers of America serves any and all regardless of faith, belief or condition. But we are founded on Christian principles and operate largely on faith that our Family of Service (supporters of all types) will enable us to complete this work. See below a prayer offered by our Vice President of Social Services, Sharon Dade.

  • Volunteer. We could not do our work without the support of our Family of Service, and that includes volunteers. Cold weather emergencies present some of the most challenging, and rewarding, volunteer opportunities. The hours are difficult, but the work is important. Find out more here: https://www.cervistech.com/acts/console.php?console_id=0111&console_type=event_list&res_code=vVEbu4&ht=1

  • Donate. Our Family of Service includes contributors of all types. We could use donations of clean, gently used twin size blankets, pillows, towels and toiletries, hats, coats, gloves, and thermal underwear. And monetary gifts keep us open all year long. Donations can be made securely online here: https://secure3.convio.net/voa/site/Donation2;jsessionid=94E7646FB7831CCEFD1BB02461227ACA.app30103b?df_id=2640&2640.donation=form1 Or mailed to Volunteers of America Michigan, 414 N. Larch St., Lansing, MI 48912.
  • Recruit. We are always looking for part-time, seasonal or on-call case monitors to help during dangerous weather. You can find career opportunties at Volunteers of America Michigan here: https://www.voami.org/careers

Finally, as promised, here is the prayer offered by Sharon Dade, Vice President of Social Services:

"We pray for the homeless and those who are without reliable transportation. The weather is dangerously brutal, especially for our homeless brothers and sisters.

We pray for wisdom and endurance and ability to serve. Our shelter system is at maximum capacity. Our cold weather shelter is bursting at the seams and short staffed.

This winter is beginning rough. But I am confident that God is able and His mercy endures forever."