Jessica Mathews /

A local non-profit that provides emergency shelter to homeless adults is reflecting on the past season but also stressing a need for volunteers and financial commitments moving forward.

The Severe Weather Network Livingston County (SWN) provides emergency winter sheltering services to Livingston County homeless adult men and women.

The shelter opened its doors for the season on November 1st last year, one month earlier than in previous years, and operated for six months. It wrapped up its 6th winter shelter season on April 30th. A total of 1,227 nights of emergency shelter were provided to 57 adults ranging in age from 18 to 72.

Prior to 2017, Livingston County had no congregate homeless shelter. Homeless adult men and women seeking emergency shelter had access to a limited amount of government-funded motel vouchers from local service agencies, mainly The Salvation Army and the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency.

A press release states due to funding limitations and restrictions on the number of hotel nights per voucher, homeless individuals had no options during the coldest months of the year but to shelter in automobiles, on the streets or in tents. Initially a grassroots effort, the Severe Weather Network was “formed by caring, compassionate and empathetic individuals within the community who saw there was a great need for sheltering services”.

SWN Board Co-Chair Diane Duncan said they’re grateful for the dedication and commitment of the 206 community volunteers, local businesses and restaurants for their contributions. Throughout the season, guests were connected to resources for housing, employment, mental health, and medical health. Financial contributions were utilized for facility rental space, meals, transportation, staff, overnight security, and COVID safety measures.

One of the key goals of the SWN is to aid guests in finding permanent solutions to end their homelessness. To that end, financial assistance is also used for guest assistance including down payments for rental leases, rental insurance, fuel, automotive repairs, and automotive insurance.

Duncan said “While we are pleased to have been able to accommodate the needs of homeless individuals this season, the operation faced many challenges. For the past two seasons, our main focus has been to ensure our guests, volunteers, and staff were protected from Covid. The SWN Board and staff are incredibly proud that the enforcement of all Covid safety protocols resulted in zero transmission of Covid allowing the Severe Weather Center to remain fully operational. However, the pandemic deterred more than half of our 450 volunteer team members from engaging with us. Needless to say, this created unique challenges for this year’s operations”.

The SWN Board is currently in the planning stages for the 2022/2023 season and there is said to have been a significant drop in volunteers and overall funding contributions. Therefore over the summer months, the board will be petitioning churches, businesses and community members for volunteers and funding commitments for the upcoming season.

Officials say it’s their hope that the community will see the valuable resource the organization provides to Livingston County and will do all possible to ensure homeless adults will continue to have a warm, safe, refuge during the winter months.

The Board will evaluate volunteer and financial commitments in late August to determine next year’s operation.