With the weather changing and winter fast approaching, most of Lansing takes comfort knowing they will be spared the brunt of the season in the warmth of their homes. However, the 400-plus homeless individuals in the Lansing area don’t have the peace of mind of knowing they will get to spend the winter days inside or even warm. But places like Advent House Ministries Inc. help to take some of that stress away by providing a weekend shelter program every Saturday and Sunday, even on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“Advent House Ministries is a faith-based organization in that it was founded on the principles of faith in action; however, we do not and never have proselytized,” Susan E. Cancro, executive director of Advent House Ministries. “We provide the environment and tools to assist in meeting goals. We do this without judgment. Anyone can come to us for help.”
A program that started 31 years ago with a single meal transpired into an all-day weekend program that provides hot meals, a safe and welcoming environment, and advocacy and referral services to the homeless and others struggling with homelessness and poverty in the Lansing area. A day shelter provides a place to rest and relax for those who are homeless or precariously housed (living in a place that is unsafe, unhealthy or inadequate to meet basic housing needs in a livable way).
“When people become homeless, most often they are accommodated with overnight shelter but not provided with a place to be during the day,” Cancro explained. “People will then go to public places where they can blend in but usually have to keep moving – they can’t enjoy the freedom of relaxing without being expected to move on.”
According to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2016 Lansing/East Lansing/Ingham County had 471 homeless individuals, including 54 veterans and 29 unaccompanied youth under 25. When Advent House began its work in the early 1980s, the realization became apparent that individuals and families had nowhere to go during the day or on weekends when homeless or at risk. Soon after getting to know those in need, Advent House noticed and learned about the need for housing, employment and educational assistance that is unique to situational and generational poverty and homelessness.
“Our effort to provide a safe, welcoming place led us to begin a journey of meeting needs for those most at-risk among us,” said Cancro. “We have been learning about poverty as we have walked alongside those we serve all these years. We saw clearly the need to suspend judgment and listen, and then come up with options that meet people where they are.”
Advent House’s housing programs are focused on those who have been in a shelter or on the streets and are considered “homeless” by the federal definition from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to Cancro, these programs allow the ministry to pay a portion of the monthly rent and provide intensive case management services to assist participants in building skills to secure stable, permanent housing.
Through life, literacy and employment services, individuals are opened to the opportunity to learn and build life skills in programs they may not have had the chance to before. The services at the ministry make sure to reach every person in need. This includes offering children’s programs that specialize in recreational and instructional time as well as play time.
“Our goal is to offer recreational and learning activities, including homework help during the school year,” Cancro said. “We also are aware that every child wants to relax and have something fun to do on weekends, so we do our best to come up with fun and engaging learning activities.
Advent House’s outreach and advocacy do not stop there. The ministry is planning efforts for Homeless Awareness Week on Nov. 10-18 and Christmas Day. This year’s events include a pre-Christmas party for children as well as collecting sweatshirts, hats, gloves and socks for each adult.
The weekend day shelter is able to be as generous as it is because of the commitment of the groups and individuals who volunteer. Advent House is the only all-day weekend shelter in Ingham County and is always looking for volunteers to help out with meals and the children’s programs. To learn more about the services and volunteer opportunities, visit adventhouse.com.