Shelter Association of Washtenaw County asks community for help with winter sheltering

Agency looking for safe sheltering spaces for Nov. 1

Mattresses ready to be used in the winter warming center (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC) is asking the public to help meet growing demands on the association and its services.

Over the past six months, it has served 669 individuals experiencing homelessness across all of its locations. But, the organization’s ability to offer its Winter Shelter Programs to those experiencing homelessness is “at risk" due to a lack of funding and shelter space, according to a release.

SAWC is asking for help. It is looking for locations around Washtenaw County that can act as safe and socially distanced sheltering spaces.

A site is needed for Nov. 1.

According to the release, the ideal shelter space fit these criteria:

  • fit up to 75 people at one time while socially distanced
  • be around 7,5000 sq feet or larger
  • have on-site showers and lockers or a locked storage space
  • have day-and-night access
  • have space for meals
  • Wi-Fi access

Possible sites include church halls, school gyms, warehouses or other open floor plan spaces that have access to bathrooms and showers.

SAWC will provide 24/7 ongoing staffing and cleaning while Food Gatherers will provide meals.

The association is also in need of financial support for its expanded operations from Nov. 2020 to April 2021.

In March, the Robert J. Delonis Center was forced to reduce its capacity due to social distancing restrictions. With community partners, SAWC was able to establish and operate multiple offsite locations to continue servicing those experiencing homelessness.

Of those it has helped over the course of the pandemic, 77% of individuals using SAWC’s services have chronic health conditions and other medical or physical disabilities.

“Protecting this vulnerable population from further health complications and from contracting the virus, that could potentially be deadly to those with comprised immune systems, is our top priority," said SAWC Executive Director Daniel Kelly.

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Financial support from the community has been critical for the organization. It has hired 35 additional temporary staff and increased its expenditures by over $450,000 in order to meet increased demands.

Over the past months, the organization. has been helped by the Washtenaw County government, the City of Ann Arbor, community individuals, businesses, local advocates and local congregations. Just two coronavirus (COVID-19) positive cases have been reported in SAWC shelters, according to the release.

SAWC is asking the public to recognize the diverse needs of community members experiencing homelessness.

“This is a community-wide problem and can be solved with community-wide effort. We urge you to join us in supporting our most vulnerable neighbors during this critical time as cold weather approaches and the risk of the pandemic are exacerbated by the risk of cold weather exposure,” the SAWC release reads.

Community members can help by visiting the SAWC website or by contacting Kelly at

Learn more about Shelter Association of Washtenaw County at

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.