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Shelters working to keep homeless warm

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Dec 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-30 18:23:46-05

LANSING, Mich. (WSYM) - In these frigid temperatures, there are some people without a warm place to sleep.
Mid-Michigan shelters are doing everything they can to keep those people off the streets.
FOX 47's Alani Letang stopped by the Volunteers of America shelter in Lansing on Friday to see how they are accommodating an extra number of people. 
They told Letang the cold weather we've been experiencing recently means they're opening up their overflow.
Thursday night they had more than 80 men, women and children stay the night.

"That's a lot of people that are just in because of the cold, a lot of times what that means for families is they're not sleeping in their cars," said Sharon Dade, the Volunteers of America's vice president of social services.

The increase in the number of people is double the amount from last year at this time. Sharon said they usually don't expect this sort of crowd until January when temperatures are typically their coldest. But she said now they're ready.

"We all have to gear up earlier and that's exactly whats happening to make sure we take care of the most vulnerable in our community," Dade said.

One woman said she is thankful that the VOA was there to open a door to her.

"It's a blessing...it's a blessing....if it weren't for places like this we'd be dead," said Kelly VanGiesen, a woman experiencing homelessness. 
Kelly VanGiesen has been staying at the VOA shelter for a week and has experienced homelessness on and off for a year. She told us she takes full advantage of what the VOA has to offer.

"We're a minority and a hidden minority. People are prone to listen to you here, as opposed to elsewhere," said VanGiesen

Previously VanGiesen said she was making $45,000/year. With "a drop of the dime" she said her life took a turn. She told us she would rather not discuss it further. However, she has goals for herself; the first is to end her homelessness experience.

"My next step is to keep myself mentally and physically healthy and to get my own place," said VanGiesen.

With the lack of affordable housing in Lansing that will be half the battle.
The VOA said they will be there to pick up for that loss.

"We have to treat others as human beings and treat them like you would your own family and if you need a place to stay, we're going to give you that opportunity," said Dade. 
The VOA told FOX 47 News that housing is the answer to homelessness. They try and work with everyone on getting them permanent housing. After housing, they then work with them on getting an income. That can include helping them to get a job or to apply for social security disability.

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LINK:  VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA