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Seasonal homeless shelter may cease operations

An organization devoted to sheltering Livingston County’s homeless population says it is facing the possibility of closing its doors.

The Severe Weather Network Livingston County (SWN) Board of Directors has unanimously voted to cease this upcoming winter’s operations of its seasonal homeless shelter unless substantial additional financial and volunteer commitments are confirmed by October 31, 2022.

The Severe Weather Network, a 501 © (3) nonprofit organization, has provided emergency winter sheltering services to Livingston County homeless adult men and women since 2016.  Prior to then, Livingston County had no congregate homeless shelter, leaving homeless adults seeking emergency shelter to access a limited government funds for motel vouchers. 

Once those ran out, individuals had no options during the coldest months of the year but to shelter in automobiles, on the streets or in tents. 

Diane Duncan is the group’s co-chair.

“This is an urgent plea and our final request for financial commitments,” she said. “Our organization serves approximately 60 homeless individuals each winter season. This number is expected to increase due to rental evictions and cost of living increases.  We as a Board had significant and unique challenges the past two years while operating during the pandemic.  In addition to our normal operating budget, we were forced to take costly measures to ensure the health and safety of our guests and volunteers which resulted in zero transmission of Covid allowing the center to remain fully operational.”

Duncan said the pandemic deterred the majority of their 450 volunteer team members from engaging with them which resulted in the need to hire paid overnight security and a team of part-time coordinators to help stabilize the operation, resulting in higher than expected operational costs. 

“Given the lack of volunteers,” Duncan continued, “the SWN Board of Directors has been “hands on” for the past two years volunteering hundreds of hours to the operation while also managing our own full time jobs.  While we are incredibly proud of the work we have accomplished, we know we are personally not able to sustain these numbers of volunteer hours for another season.  Without a volunteer base, we must hire a competent and dedicated team to operate the Severe Weather Center.”

She says the current monthly operating budget with a paid team is $34,000.  In order for the Severe Weather Center to be fully operational this upcoming winter season, Duncan says the Board needs to secure a minimum of $200K by October 31.

“The Severe Weather Network has provided more than 6,500 nights of emergency shelter and is a much needed community resource in Livingston County,” said Duncan. “The organization, through case management efforts, connects guests to resources for housing, employment, mental health, and medical health.  Financial contributions are utilized for facility rental space, meals, transportation, staff, overnight security, and Covid safety measures.  One of the key goals of the organization is to aid guests in finding permanent solutions to end their homelessness. To this end, financial assistance is also used for guest assistance including down payments for rental leases, rental insurance, fuel, automotive repairs, and automotive insurance.”

Ongoing fundraising and community volunteer recruitment efforts will continue through October 31.  The organization is seeking to secure business sponsorships, engage county churches in mission work and expand community volunteer opportunities. 

The annual Trivia Night fundraising event is scheduled for October 15. 

Those interested in sharing their time, talent or resources, can email Livingstonswn@gmail.org or visit the group’s website at www.livingstonswn.org.  

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