Warming shelters provide respite from cold weather

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published February 16, 2018

DETROIT — The Detroit community is working to get the word out about its available resources to help those on the streets escape the winter cold.

Three designated warming centers run by Cass Community Social Services and Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries have been set up that allow people to spend the night out of the cold — as well as some days when the weather is particularly cold, and city recreation centers and libraries are designated as respite centers where people can find shelter during the daytime hours.

“The three warming centers allow us to expand the capacities of shelters. Those who are reluctant to go into shelters in the summer months may do so when the weather turns cold,” said Meghan Takashima, the homeless solutions director with the city of Detroit. “People think these may be the only shelters available, but these are expansions to the centers we offer all year round. There are about 10 other shelters, which are year-round facilities, and Cass Community Social Services and Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.”

The shelters receive funds from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Emergency Solutions grants and Community Development Block Grants. The focus of these shelters is on protecting people from the weather, although the hope is that people living on the streets will utilize other resources to help them change their lives for the better while there.

“There’s some variance (of resources) from center to center,” said Takashima. “People will get a place to sleep at night, an evening and morning meal, and, depending on the weather, people can stay there during the day if the weather is still cold.”

All individuals are supervised at all times to ensure safety and security.

The three warming centers are open through Saturday, March 31, to provide relief to the homeless when year-round shelters are at capacity. The city’s 11 recreation centers and 18 library branches also will be available for that time period.

“It’s really just access to the building and our regular services,” said A.J. Funchess, the assistant director of marketing and communications for the Detroit Public Library. “We want people to know we are there as a resource. The library has always been what we call the neighborhood’s living room, and we want the community to know our doors are open.”

The three designated warming shelters offer different services to different populations. Cass Community Social Services, located at 1534 Webb St., has 40 beds and provides services for male and female parents with children. The center is open from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. and can be contacted at (313) 883-2277.

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries has 100 beds, for men only, located at 3535 Third Ave. near downtown Detroit. It is open from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. and can be contacted directly at (313) 993-6703. The organization also has a second location with 25 beds for women and children only located at 3840 Fairview St. It is open from 4:30 p.m. to 9 a.m. and can be contacted directly at (313) 331-8990.

Detroit utilizes a coordinated entry process for access to shelters and warming centers. Individuals experiencing homelessness in Detroit and in need of emergency shelter should call the Coordinated Entry System call center at (313) 305-0311.

“The city funds a lot of different programs to reach out to those who are fighting poverty, and those living on the streets. This includes the warming centers and shelters,” said Takashima. “We use the Coordinated Entry System, which is a Department of Housing and Urban Development-mandated single point of entry that can link them to the right resources as a way to access all those systems.”

Additionally, outreach teams go out into the community to encourage those who are homeless to take advantage of these resources.

“There are outreach teams on the street working shifts from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. each night, going to places where people are known to congregate and offering them places to come inside,” explained Takashima. “They will drive people who want to come in to the warming centers.”

The library and recreation center staff members hope the public will see their facilities as a haven both in the winter and the rest of the year.

“I think it’s important, regardless of the time of year, that the library is there and our doors are open to everyone to come in and take advantage of our resources,” said Funchess. 

He added that the Redford branch, the Eastside Wilder branch and the primary library location on Woodward are open on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Cold weather can easily dip down to deadly levels during winter in Michigan. Takashima said it is crucial that people know there are alternatives to suffering through this danger.

“Our focus is trying to get as many people to a warm place to sleep at night,” she said. “There are so many health risks to those who are exposed to the weather at night. There are some people who are nervous to go into shelters, and we want them to know this is a no-strings-attached respite from the winter weather.”