By Jessica Mathews /

A local non-profit organization that provides resources and overnight shelter to homeless individuals in Livingston County has had to make some changes for the upcoming season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Severe Weather Network (SWN) partners with community organizations, agencies, and faith communities to provide emergency, overnight refuge during the winter months for people experiencing homelessness in Livingston County. It also connects individuals to community action agencies committed to providing the services necessary to assist homeless individuals with the transition into affordable housing. It has been providing services since 2015 and for the past two seasons, provided 2,275 shelter nights to 67 adult men and women. However, the number of homeless adults seeking shelter this season is expected to be significantly higher given the pandemic, current unemployment rate and increase in rental evictions.

Plans for the normal congregate shelter at Chilson Hills Church had to be suspended due to concerns about a potential COVID-19 outbreak but also because the county doesn’t have established individual quarantine sites to shelter infected individuals. It will operate from December 1st through April 30th but with some changes. Instead of operating out of a local church with a congregate setting, it has partnered with a local hotel to provide emergency sheltering accommodations. The SWN will operate a 24-hour emergency shelter hotline for guests to call in advance and register for assistance.

SWN Board Chairperson Diane Duncan says they’ve utilized the center at Chilson Hills Church for the past three years but didn’t have any areas to quarantine individuals so this new hotel arrangement offers a safe alternative. Duncan says last year they had about 15 people per night. She noted they do anticipate seeing an increase and there will still be other alternative options to homeless individuals through the Livingston County Homeless Continuum of Care, OLSHA, the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul. Duncan tells WHMI the change will definitely impact the budget and they’re now reaching out to the community to help support the programming change by purchasing a shelter night or nights during the season. The cost for one hotel night is $50 and the organization is hoping to raise $75,000 to accommodate up to ten guests per night over the 22 week season, for a total of 1,500 nights of shelter.

More information about the Severe Weather Network and how to donate can be found through the provided web link and attached press release.