KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo County Continuum of Care was formed in January 2020. At the end of the year, the Continuum of Care was fighting homelessness as temperatures dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Continuum of Care is a community-wide planning body, organized through the United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, with the mission of ending homelessness.
Alyssa Steward, the Vice President of Impact and Engagement at the United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, said the job was more challenging during COVID-19.
Steward said that encampments of homeless individuals were concerning in cold temperatures and during the pandemic.
"'These sites are of the utmost concern in light of COVID, but they're also concerning because we're heading into winter," Steward said. "As the snow starts to fall, we know outdoor camping becomes very dangerous."
Steward said the plan was to work to get people out of these encampment and into temporary housing, while also providing them with PPE and hygiene supplies.
Steward said local shelters were working to ensure they could safely serve as many people as possible and said room was still available.
“It is important to lift up that there is space in the shelters, but as we head into the winter months there is an increase in the number of people seeking shelter there, so we expect those vacancies to be filled," Steward said.
Steward said that many shelters had to limit how many people they served and were coming up with creative ways to feed and house those in need.
She also said you could look online and find local organizations dedicated to fighting homelessness to help out.
Housing Resources, Inc., Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, Catholic Charities Diocese of Kalamazoo, Open Doors, YWCA, ISK, Catholic Charities Diocese of Kalamazoo (The Ark), Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries, Ministry with Community, Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, Catholic Charities Diocese of Kalamazoo, HOPE Thru Navigation and Urban Alliance were all organization named in a December 15 statement by the Continuum of Care.
"We have a hugely generous community, a passionate community and one that cares about the issue of housing," Steward says. "What the Continuum of Care would encourage is really support for the non-profit organizations that have been providing services day in, day out."
More information about the Kalamazoo County Continuum of Care can be found on the United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo's website.