Lynnette Horton, 54, of Detroit, looks at a family photo as she's thankful to be at Detroit Rescue Mission Genesis House #3 in Detroit. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
Detroit — Shelters and warming centers across Metro Detroit were prepared for the polar vortex that is sweeping through the region this week by offering all available space for those seeking refuge from subzero temperatures.
The 50-bed women and children’s shelter offered by Cass Community Social Services in Midtown has been open around the clock to allow folks to stay the night or walk in just long enough to warm up and have a cup of coffee. Tuesday morning, 35 people were inside the warming center.
“We have not been closing, and we don’t plan on it,” said the Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services.
The Salvation Army’s Macomb’s Answer to Temporary Shelter in Warren saw just two patrons seek shelter overnight, in addition to its 90 beds offered year-round.
“We were thinking because of the cold weather there would be more people but only two people showed up,” said Salvation Army case worker Sarah Kamppingen.
The warming center at the Detroit VA Healthcare System at 4646 John R opened a warming center for the first time from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
On Monday, 70 people visited. By Tuesday morning, 56 had already stopped in, said Lisa Olney, a VA public affairs officer.
“Hopefully, it’s from word of mouth,” Olney said of the quickly growing demand for the new warming center. “A lot of times when people are getting out of the overnight shelter, they’re given a list of places to go. It looks like we’re already on that list.”
The VA warming center offers veterans and their families board games and movies, and on Wednesday the Elks Club will sponsor a hot dog social.
Elsewhere, the Detroit Rescue Mission has set up chairs in Genesis House III, its shelter for women and children, and its two other facilities, both for men, to expand capacity beyond 210 beds.
“When we run out of bed space, we set mats down on the floor, plus we provide chairs so we don’t turn anyone away who comes to our doors,” said Paulette Sellers, executive assistant to the rescue mission’s president, Chad Audi.
Other groups helped some of the area’s most vulnerable residents brave the conditions.
For the second consecutive day, a rehab unit with Southfield-based Community EMS crossed the region responding to requests for help, doling out coffee, hot chocolate, food and clothing as part of a new project. On Tuesday, they also transported people from abandoned homes to shelters and distributed firewood, said Janine Beauchemin, marketing executive for the nonprofit, which plans to continue the efforts through Wednesday.
By midafternoon, Beauchemin said volunteers had reached about half of the 40 locations on their list, and “the calls are still coming in.” Crews also responded to medical emergencies.
Meanwhile, to help meet the ongoing demand, donations of items such as nonperishable food, gloves, hand warmers and thick outerwear are sought.
To donate or report someone in need, call 1-800-343-4427.
Staff writer Shawn D. Lewis contributed.