Lansing poverty rate up, household incomes down

Posted at 9:35 AM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 09:35:14-05

Lansing's poverty rate is up and household incomes are down, which is creating a new problem for local homeless shelters.

Local shelters tell FOX 47 they're having to help more people, both homeless and not.

Bill Engelbert is one of those people. Living paycheck to paycheck, Engelbert couldn't afford the unexpected.

"Used to be a professional truck driver and I pulled an over-sized load," he said.

That was all it took. With a suspended license, Engelbert was out of a job, and a few months later he was homeless.

"It's like a domino effect, no paycheck and then you're out," Engelbert said.

It's a situation more people in Lansing are facing. Five years ago the median income was a little more than $41,000, but as of last year it fell to less than $36,000. That's a 14 percent drop in just five years.

For Patrick Patterson at the VOA, that means the shelter is seeing more people come in the doors.

"It's real concern," Patterson said. "A calamity that other more wealthy folks could handle, they can't. That's the typical thing that results in homelessness: a layoff, an illness that results in a layoff, losing daycare so you lose your job."

That's just one need. Mark Criss at City Rescue Mission says it's serving more meals, but it's to people who have jobs and aren't making enough to cover their expenses.

"We see people that are just on the fringe of making it or becoming homeless," Criss said. "Coming for a meal helps subsidize their income. They spend less on food because we've providing a good quality meal for them."

That's why the shelter just upgraded to a new catering kitchen, letting it meet that demand.

"That allows us to produce more meals more effectively and more efficiently," Criss explained.

It's help Engelbert appreciates but wished he never needed.

"You feel degraded to have to go there," Engelbert said.

He's now working with the VOA to get housing, hoping to get back on his feet.