PONTIAC, Mich. - With Michigan residents hunkering down for what is expected to be a long couple of months as the health officials start recommending more restrictive quarantining, food shelters are struggling to keep up with the demand.
Lighthouse, one of Oakland County's largest nonprofits, is seeing food and supplies fly off the shelves - and nothing replacing them.
"I'm not seeing a lot of food donations come in. I saw people go to the store and get a lot of things they probably didn't need so I'm asking those people, if you got too much, make a donation," said Russ Russell, chief development officer for Lighthouse. "We need help."
Russell made the plea while standing in the hallway of their Pontiac food as people shuffled back and forth shifting supplies.
Both him, along with Lighthouse President Ryan hertz said with the closure of schools and more people going into self-isolation over concerns of the coronavirus spread, thousands of families need food and supplies.
"We're working specifically to try to target the households they've identified as homeless, whose children rely very heavily on the school lunch programs," said Hertz.
It's not just food that isn't coming in, but diapers that are lacking as well. Even more concerning is the dearth of volunteers that haven't shown up since officials began recommending people stay home.
But Lighthouse's problems don't stop there. They are also seeking for a semi-permanent building where the homeless can stay as the COVID-19 outbreak spreads.
"We can not let the homeless just go out on the street," said Russell.
Normally, dozens of homeless are cared for by hundreds of volunteers at area churches and synagogues, calling it a rotating shelter. But now gatherings of people are being banned and the churches and synagogues are closing their doors.
"Sound the alarm, because the alarm is going off. And every day it gets a little bit worse. It was 250, now it's 50 and (then) the president said 10," said Russell.
Instead of rotating churches, Russell and Hertz are looking for a permanent location for the next few months.
"We are desperately trying to find one location where we can keep all of our guests collectively together pretty much hunkered down during that period of time," said Russell.
All of these challenges come as the region's most vulnerable populations find themselves needing the nonprofit's services more than ever before.
"We believe what we're doing right now is more important than its ever been and at the same time, more logistically challenging than it's ever been," said Hertz.
United Way has promised to match up to $50,000 in donations. Lighthouse is also setting up additional drop off locations for food donations.
"There are heroes out there, they just need to know there's an opportunity to be a hero," said Russell.
You can learn more about how you can help at lighthousemi.org/