Detroit Budget Cuts Leave Homeless Out in the Cold

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January 27, 2011; Source: Detroit News | The only way to describe this story is to say the city of Detroit is cold-hearted. Despite single digit temperatures this winter, the city hasn't made even a dime available to the Detroit's only warming center – a place that up until now has provided a safe haven for homeless individuals on extremely cold nights.

Unlike a shelter that operates year-round, warming centers only open their doors during the winter to provide overnight housing. Years of declining revenues reduced city funding, leaving just one nighttime warming center: Operation Get Down. Last year, the nonprofit center received $182,000 from the city. This year the city stripped all funding for the center from its budget.

Shenetta Coleman, director of Detroit's Human Service Department, defended the decision saying nighttime warming centers were never considered a permanent service. Instead, she told the Detroit News, it was a "nice extra to have." Coleman also said knowing the cuts were coming, she advised the city to work with other homeless shelters to provide an alternative to Operation Get Down. "They are the experts of that particular target population," she said.

Homeless individuals are indeed flocking to shelters on frigid nights, but at some places, there isn't enough space for everyone. According to the newspaper, at one facility, the Tumaini Center, people "have had to stand against the wall all night or sit in a drafty hallway."

Curiously, at least one Detroit official claims that the Operation Get Down was awarded $90,000 last fall in federal block grants. Even though none of that money has surfaced yet, City Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said, "it should be there."—Bruce Trachtenberg