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More Michigan residents seek help at homeless shelters this winter

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More Michigan residents are seeking help at homeless shelters and warming centers this winter.

More Michigan families are seeking out homeless shelters and warming centers this winter. And the need will likely continue to increase as temperatures fall below zero.

The HOPE Hospitality and Warming Center in Pontiac is a place people can go for a warm meal, a blanket and a spot on the floor to sleep during the winter months.

Elizabeth Kelly is HOPE's executive director. She says in addition to the core group of chronically homeless the shelter usually serves, she’s also seen an increase in the number of families seeking shelter: 

"These are people finding themselves in a homeless condition for the first time in their lives or its just not something that’s typically happened to them before."


The Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (MCREST) is in a similar situation. Rhonda Powell is the organization's executive director:

"This year we’ve seen such a tremendous increase in the number of families seeking our services. So it’s been quite a challenge this year to make those accommodations."

The total number of people served at MCREST last year was around 750. Powell says the shelter is "already on target to surpass that."

The Detroit Free Press surveyed homeless shelters and warming centers in Wayne County, where the demand for shelter is also high: 

The demand for shelter at the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Detroit has been high most of the year, officials said. The facility was filled to capacity even some nights during the summer. The shelter has 140 beds. "It can be very difficult to get into shelter because the demand doesn't match up with the supply," said Cheryl Johnson, CEO of COTS. "There are more homeless now because people are losing their homes due to foreclosure. The weather has nothing to do with it."

The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness says last year there were 100,001 homeless people in the state. That's up from 90,286 in 2008.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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