Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness

Video: homeless Michigan veteran gets a makeover

Nov 10, 2013

This video chronicling the makeover of a Michigan homeless veteran has been viewed millions of times online.

The nearly three-minute video featuring Jim Wolf of Grand Rapids has gotten more than 5 million clicks on YouTube as of Saturday.

The time-lapse video was produced by community event organizer Rob Bliss with support from a nonprofit group helping homeless veterans.

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

If you could walk into any school in Michigan and look around at the students, you might not realize it, but somewhere in there you would see students who are homeless.

There are more than 37,500 homeless students in Michigan, and that's up 66 percent in the past four years. So, even as the economy begins to struggle its way toward recovery in Michigan, we have a rising number of homeless students trying to struggle their way through school.

Joining us to talk about the challenges that homelessness poses to students and to the school districts are Angela Parth, the executive director of "The Connection Youth Services" in Livingston County, and Holly Fiedler, the homeless Liaison and Social Worker at Milan Area Schools.

Listen to the full interview above.

Homeless camp
Nicole Salow / Flickr

Michigan organizations that help homeless people are taking part in a “snap-shot” census. The federal government requires the overnight count every other year. It’s part of the Obama administration’s plan to eradicate homelessness by 2020.

The census must happen on a single night during the last ten days of January. The count includes people who are in shelters, transitional housing, and on the street.

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.

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.

Michigan’s homeless shelters may be the next step for people losing their state welfare benefits next month.    And that worries an advocate for Michigan’s homeless.   More than 12 thousand families will be kicked out of Michigan’s welfare programs when the new 48 month limit on state cash assistance benefits takes effect October 1st. 

Eric Hufnagel expects most will be sustained by family and local charities.   But the executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness fears some will turn to local homeless shelters.  Hufnagel says local shelters are preparing for an influx of new clients, but decreasing government aid for shelters means it will be difficult.  

“We may not have the services that we need for some of those folks who are limited and no longer are receiving cash assistance.”   

Hufnagel expects only a small number of people losing their welfare benefits will turn to shelters initially.   But he says that tide will rise as religious groups and other charities find they cannot meet the need.