Homeless

Fire stations across the state are being left abandoned as fire departments shrink and consolidate. Now a man hopes to transform one of those vacant stations in Flint into a homeless shelter.

John Bone says he's transforming an eye sore into a place where up to 100 people in need can find a bed and a shower.

streetmedicine.org

Several Wayne State University students started Street Medicine Detroit in May.

They’d heard about a similar program in Pittsburg and they were inspired. They partnered with a Detroit non-profit called Neighborhood Service Organization and together they created a mobile medical clinic.

Philip Ramsey is a community outreach specialist with NSO. (Rumor has it that if you’re trying to locate a specific homeless person, and you give Ramsey the vaguest of details, he can go out and find that person who might be living in a tent next to highway.)

It’s Ramsey’s job to drive the med team around the streets and back-alleys of Detroit and to help them locate homeless people who are in need of medical services.

So once a week, the van rumbles down Michigan Avenue past prostitutes on the corners and a young man pushing a baby stroller.  Ramsey helps the team find people who are lying down on the ground or sitting on the curb. He says additional clues that someone may be homeless are people with dirty clothes and uncombed hair, or people who are openly drinking.

Stateside: Investigating Detroit's homeless population

Dec 17, 2012
user anonymonous / Flickr

Airing this week will be a series of stories Michigan Radio’s Kyle Norris compiled on Detroit’s homeless population.

To introduce the series,  Norris spoke with Meghan Takashima of the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

They spoke about some of the misconceptions people have about those without a home.

Norris began by noting her inspiration for the stories.

“Something is drawing me to these stories…when I’m with homeless people I have to be real, I have to be a human first and a reporter second,” said Norris.

Sean Hunter / flickr

Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris has been been spending a lot of time in Detroit lately to report on stories of people doing things to help the homeless in the city.

And this week Michigan Radio will be airing the first of her three part series on the homeless on Stateside.

Norris reported on a mobile medical clinic that works with the homeless, how a woman gives homeless shelters makeovers, and how homeless gay youth create their own families.

Norris talked about her experience reporting on these stories on Seeking Change. She says her stories are about people doing little things to make a difference for the homeless in Detroit.

cdc.gov / cdc.gov

Homeless Awareness Week in Michigan is November 10-18. The idea is to highlight the causes of homelessness and the issues that homeless people face. There are events planned in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Port Huron, and other towns.

In Livingston County a group of people will live in their cars for 24 hours and eat only what they can buy with about $5 in food stamps, in order to raise awareness.

wyandotte.net

The Yard is a new center for homeless and runaway youth based in Wyandotte. It provides tutoring, food, computers, a washer and dryer, and a place for young people to hangout.

Jane Scarlett is the director of homeless programs at Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency.  She’s says school districts call the agency on a daily basis looking for organizations that can help homeless kids in their area. But Scarlett says it’s tough to know exactly how many homeless kids are out there.

Mercedes Mejia /Michigan Radio

About 70 homeless people stayed at the tent city known as Camp Take Notice. But they were told to pack up and move out.

“You know, right now, this whole situation is very surreal. It feels like we are just going through the motions...I’m really going to miss it, you know, I’m just gonna miss the people," said Mary Contrucci.

Scott Ellinger and his girlfriend lived at the camp for a few months. He said, "It was a tight-knit community here, we were like family. Everybody looked out for each other."

"We really haven’t had any major problems out here. Except for a few minor incidences. We had one fire, which was accidental," said Ellinger.

It’s accidents like the fire that broke out a few months ago that state officials want to avoid. Sally Harrison is director of Rental Assistance and Homeless Solutions for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

State officials are preparing to cordon off a stretch of highway median near Ann Arbor to keep the homeless out.

As AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton reports, the site is home to Camp Take Notice, a homeless community encampment that is scheduled to be shut down tomorrow. To make sure it remains unoccupied, the Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns the land, is erecting an 8-foot fence around the 9-acre site.

MDOT and the state housing authority, Stanton says, are working to provide camp residents with rent assistance and, in some cases, help moving into subsidized housing, but authorities have made it clear that residing at the campsite is no longer an option.

From AnnArbor.com:

"We've been hearing from the community and from Camp Take Notice that the homeless have been using this area for a long time as a makeshift home," [an MDOT regional manager, Mark] Sweeney said, adding there have been complaints from nearby residents that the homeless have left the area a mess.

"We really wanted to resolve the issue once and for all," he said. "So after the camp is closed, we'll be closing off the area."

Sweeney added, "It's not against Camp Take Notice specifically, but more to prevent a homeless encampment of any kind in this location."

Earlier this year, Michigan Radio's Mercedes Mejia visited Camp Take Notice and spoke with residents about life there. You can see a video of those conversations below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Flickr user rawmustard

Graduation parties are in full-swing right now. If you had stumbled upon one recent graduation party in Howell, you would have found picnic food, party games, and a live DJ. But there was something unique about this celebration.

The seven students here celebrating their high school diplomas are also homeless. (An additional student earned a GED.)

beta-gibbs.pcsb.org

New posters in downtown Ann Arbor businesses will ask visitors to stop giving money to panhandlers.  The effort by the mayor's office and businesses asks people to give money to local resources for the homeless instead. 

The posters say panhandlers often use the money to buy drugs and alcohol.  This concerns some local homeless residents.  They say this isn't always the case.  

Emily Fox

Even though summer has just begun, I recently visited three women who were sewing coats in a big, old industrial building in Detroit. Their goal is to make 800 coats for the homeless this year.

This isn’t just any winter coat. While it looks like a super warm jacket with an oversized hood, there’s a little flap at the bottom for your feet. This coat can double as a sleeping bag. And when it’s hot, it can be folded up into an over the shoulder satchel.

YouTube

Last week, the identity of "real-life superhero Bee Sting" was revealed at an arraignment.

Now we know that "Bee Sting" is actually Adam Besso of Sterling Heights. 

Besso was arrested after pulling a shotgun on a motorcyclist in a trailer park in Burton, Michigan.

Besso approached the man saying the man's motorcycle was too loud. A struggle ensued and Besso's shotgun discharged. Thankfully, no one was injured.

MLive spoke with Tom Carter, the man who was approached by Besso. Carter told MLive he was surprised when the masked man confronted him in the trailer park:

"I couldn't hear him, so I started to approach him and that's when the gun came out," said Carter, 38, about the incident with Bee Sting.
"As soon as I saw the gun I was thinking I didn't want my kids to get shot."

The use of a gun has not only offended law enforcement, it offended another real-life superhero.

The White House hosted the LGBT Conference on Housing and Homelessness today in Detroit. It explored various issues lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face when it comes to finding housing or dealing with homelessness. This was one of four such conferences the White House is hosting around the country.

(GothamGazette)

The Kalamazoo County Commission Tuesday will discuss taxing home owners to help others avoid homelessness.

A coalition of groups wants the commission to agree to let voters decide later this year on a proposal to add a one-tenth mil increase on their property tax bills.    The  added property tax would raise about $800 thousand  over four years.

The money would fund programs to prevent evictions, as well as provide vouchers for short-term and long-term housing.

Groundcover News

If you walk around downtown Ann Arbor you may have spotted people selling something called Groundcover News. The paper is what’s known as a street newspaper. That means homeless people sell the paper for $1 and they make a profit on every issue they sell. 

Groundcover News has articles about all kinds of topics written by the staff and other volunteers. But a growing number of the articles are being written by homeless people.

Camp Take Notice is a tent community of homeless people living in Ann Arbor.

Freezing temperatures will force many of its residents to find new places to live. But more than a dozen will stay through the winter.

Michigan Radio’s Mercedes Mejia and Meg Cramer visited the camp just before the first snow fall.

You can check out what the camp looks like here:

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 A federal judge’s ruling is opening the doors of Michigan’s homeless shelters to registered sex offenders.  

 Two years ago, a 51 year old homeless man was found frozen to death in Grand Rapids.  He was turned away by a   local homeless shelter because the man was a registered sex offender.   The shelter was less than a thousand feet from a school, which would have been a violation of a Michigan law barring sex offenders from living that close to a school.   

Flickr/Elvert Barnes

A newspaper says there were more than 31,000 homeless students in Michigan schools last year, an increase of more than 300 percent since 2007. Experts tell the Detroit Free Press that the reason appears to be home foreclosures across the state. In the past, schools typically heard different reasons, such as fire or domestic abuse.

Kids with no permanent address are living with relatives or friends or at shelters and motels. Nicole Larabee and her 14-year-old son have bounced from house to house in Livonia, including one with fleas. She had a $12-an-hour job but quit in 2010 for another job that fell through.

Larabee and 14-year-old son Matt are living in a friend's basement. Matt says it's hard to relax "unless you have your own place."

Campaign to End Homelessness website

The state is half-way through a ten year project called Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness. The project focuses on “housing first” or “rapid re-housing.” (That means reducing the amount of time people spend in shelters and trying to quickly find them permanent housing.)

Last year the state helped 40,000 people find stable housing.

Janet Irrer is the state’s homeless programs manager. She says housing first is a more humane way to help people make changes in their lives.

“You can’t deal with life in a shelter,” she says. “You can’t reach self-sufficiency there.”

The state is required to focus on housing first programs in order to get federal funding. Irrer says housing first programs are less expensive to run and help the state save money.

Ozone House website

The holidays often highlight family and special meals. But those can be delicate issues for some people, including homeless kids.  Pam Cornell-Allen is Associate Director of Ozone House, a non-profit that helps homeless youth in Washtenaw County. She says the holidays focus on a sense of family, and that can be a tender subject for homeless kids.

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