A network working to provide shelter and resources to local individuals experiencing homelessness has made some big changes coming into its 5th season of serving the community.

The Severe Weather Network of Livingston County (SWN) is a collaborative effort of The Salvation Army, the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency (OLHSA) and local churches. The network works to provide emergency, overnight refuge during the winter months for individuals affected by homelessness and to connect homeless adults with agencies providing the services and support for the transition into affordable housing.

The group provides shelter from 6pm to 7am nightly at a different location each month, December through April. The Emrich Retreat Center in Brighton will serve as the shelter location for December. In past years, the shelter locations have not opened until the second week of January. One of the positive changes the SWN has implemented this year is opening earlier than past years, that being December 1st, and staying open later into the spring, which will be April 14th. SWN Executive Board Chairperson Diane Duncan says they do have the option to stay open through the end of April if necessary.

Duncan says the organization was also granted 501 (c)(3) non-profit status in September; a change that allows them to accept monetary donations and apply for grants. The network has also taken another big step in reaching the population they serve, making a change from utilizing volunteers for transportation services to instead contracting a transportation business. Duncan says the SWN can always use the help of volunteers, as it is volunteer-run only, and have begun online training this year for that purpose.

With all of these changes, Duncan says the network is hoping to make their impact even more widespread than before. She reminds the community that besides the SWN’s shelter limited to overnight stays during the winter months, there is no actual homeless shelter here in Livingston County. The SWN reports there were 823 documented cases of homelessness in Livingston County in 2017, including 64 veterans and 414 youth. On any given day, 100 members of the community endure the challenges of being homeless. Last winter, the SWN served 18 adult guests, 13 of whom transitioned into stable housing, and in 2017, served 15 guests, 9 of whom transitioned into stable housing.

Guests who wish to utilize the center are required to register with OLSHA by phone or in person prior to staying at the center. More information about the network’s services and ways to get involved can be found at the link below. (DK)