CHARLOTTE, Mich. — There has been a spike in homelessness and domestic violence cases in Eaton County, driven by the pandemic. Last year Siren/Eaton Shelter had to turn away 285 homeless families and 171 families trying to flee domestic violence.
"Particularly around the months of March and April, I think is when we first started seeing the indicators that the next six to eight months were going to be a bumpy ride for us and for families in Eaton County," said Tracy Mulvany, the executive director for Siren/Eaton Shelter.
The shelter served 103 families in 2019. Last year, that number increased to 154. The shelter is currently full.
Mulvany says emergency shelter is designed to be a short-term program that gets people on their way to supporting themselves independently in their own safe, permanent housing.
Stays are typically limited to 30 to 90 days. Due to the pandemic, some people were allowed to stay longer.
But without turnover, "it made it difficult to figure out okay how are we going to serve all these folks yet honoring being able to keep people safe where they are with the limited number of beds and getting creative with that," Mulvany said. "And so, we did end up increasing, you know, our shelter beds as much as we could. But then we really began utilizing the motel vouchers."
The shelter has also seen an increase in domestic violence cases.
"So, what we're seeing are a lot more urgent cases. When they finally do have the time to get resources and call us, it's more urgent than it used to be. We used to have more time to help safety plan and make a plan where now it's you're ready, let's go right now," said Kaitlyn Fales, the program director at Siren/Eaton Shelter.
Fales says they have a few rentals around the county that house domestic violence families and those are currently full.
When it comes to domestic violence relationships, there are signs people can look out for, a big one being isolation.
"Chances are that the assailant has gaslighted them in some way. 'Nobody likes you. Nobody wants you around.' You know that they're starting to isolate themselves or straight being told, 'You can't see this person. You can't talk to this person,'" said Fales.
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