The past few days have marked some of the lowest temperatures the University and surrounding Ann Arbor area have ever experienced. While many students opted to stay home, many of Ann Arbor’s homeless individuals were forced to find refuge in emergency housing.
Mary Jo Callan, director of the Washtenaw County Office of Community & Economic Development, said on Jan. 6 — the day Ann Arbor experienced its lowest temperatures this week — over 100 calls were placed to its emergency housing line by those seeking shelter.
“To this point, the Delonis Center has not turned anyone out into the weather,” Callan said. “Unfortunately, I don’t know what they did at night. It’s terrible when our community is confronted with these situations.”
The Delonis Center can accommodate about 200 people, and is just one of the shelters available during the day. The University of Michigan Medical Center, along with public Ann Arbor buildings and First Presbyterian Church are some of the other locations where people were able to find temporary shelter.
Many shelters generally do not provide housing for temporary circumstances, but took special measures because of the dangerous conditions. Housing Access for Washtenaw County connects homeless people to resources depending on their needs.
While rotating shelters exist to provide a warm place for the homeless to sleep during the winter months, the First Presbyterian Church provided additional warming shelters during the worst days of the storm, which were open to anyone.
“People came to our building, had coffee, snacks and lunch,” Reverend Renée Roederer, director of campus ministry at First Presbyterian Church, said. “Church members have the opportunity to volunteer and stay the night as well. It’s a great opportunity to meet these men, show hospitality and learn from them.”
Despite the measures taken to provide refuge from the weather, homeless people in Ann Arbor expressed the need for more aid.
“There is a humanitarian crisis in Ann Arbor — it is not going to go away if people do not deal with it,” Tracy Williams, one of the homeless, said.
Although many organizations exist to aid the less fortunate in Ann Arbor, Tate Williams, who identified himself as a “winter weather survivor” when he addressed the Ann Arbor City Council, described these shelters as overburdened. Williams is an advocate for allowing and inspiring more people to aid the homeless.
Ann Arbor resident Sheri Wander, who also spoke at the meeting, said infrastructure needs to be improved in order to help those in need.
“There is no reason that, in a city that has the resources and the heart of Ann Arbor, for people to be running around in sub-zero degree weather, trying to figure out, ‘Is there an open hotel room?’ and ‘Where can we get a little bit of cash to put someone there?’”