Resident Specialist Rajaa Abbiss walks down the center hallway at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries' Mack warming center in Detroit on Nov. 12, 2021. (Kimberly P. Todd, Detroit Free Press)

Warming centers are available for Detroiters who need a reprieve from cold temperatures.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

There are three locations open through March 31 for those experiencing homelessness, according to the the City of Detroit, which is working with two nonprofits to operate the centers. While the number of people in emergency shelters in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck is below pre-pandemic levels, their length of stay has ticked up, according to the Homeless Action Network of Detroit, or HAND. 

The warming centers provide a “safety net” of overnight beds during the winter months when more people seek emergency shelter, said Terra Linzner, homelessness solutions director at the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department.

There were 4,533 people in emergency shelters this year, according to HAND. That’s below 2019 numbers but similar to 2020. However, the amount of time people stay in emergency shelters has gone up since 2016. This year, the average length of stay is 111 days.

The City of Detroit, Linzner said, is rolling out two homeless services initiatives backed by about $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars for three years.

One program, which has already started, is intended to keep families out of emergency shelters based on their needs — helping them pay for utilities, first month’s rent or the security deposit. Another prevention program, implemented through Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency would help people staying with friends and family with finding alternative housing. That program is expected to start early next year.

Father Tim McCabe, executive director of the Pope Francis Center, which runs a day shelter, said his organization serves 220 people a day. That’s 50% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, but below the need the center saw when the health crisis first started. For the past two winters, the Pope Francis Center has operated out of Huntington Place, to abide by social distancing rules and heightened need, McCabe said. This year, the organization’s church location can accommodate the nonprofit’s current demand, he said, but the center will consider a larger location, like Huntington Place, if demand increases.

“I am holding out hope that we don’t have to do that,” he said.

People seeking shelter services or warming center placement should call the Coordinated Assessment Model (CAM) — the main entry point for people facing homelessness in the city to get shelter. They can call CAM at (313) 305-0311. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Outside of CAM hours and the holidays, these warming center locations are available through the end of March:

  • Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (for families and single women): Mack Warming Center, 11037 Mack Ave., Detroit, MI 48214; (313) 331-8990
  • Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (single men): Third Street Warming Center, 3535 Third Ave., Detroit, MI 48201; (313) 993-6703
  • Cass Community Social Services (families and single women): 11850 Woodrow Wilson St., Detroit, MI 48206; (313) 883-2277

The Pope Francis Center, 438 St. Antoine in Detroit, and is open from 7-11 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Services include two meals, showers, laundry, medical care and legal clinics.

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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