2012-03-08 / Community

Coalition plans to bring awareness of homelessness

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend the night under a tarp, or sleep in a cardboard box?

On an average day we go home, turn on the lights, dial up the heat, use as much water as we want, and never spare a thought for what it would be like without all those modern conveniences our place called home provides.

In an effort to shine a light on an increasing local problem, the Schoolcraft County Coalition For Safe and Stable Housing is planning an event that will show everyone what it means to do without.

According to Nancy Demers, coordinator of the local coalition, the goal of the program is to increase awareness of the homelessness problem here in Schoolcraft County.

Called Donate Your Pastor, for an evening of homelessness, the event will feature a homeless village erected on the front grounds of the Schoolcraft County Courthouse.

Local pastors will occupy the shelters, which are typical of those used by the homeless, for several hours on Friday, April 27. They will then be able to provide a firsthand account of what it means to be homeless.

Demers says they have commitments from some of the area’s religious leaders, but are still looking for more.

She explains that the community planned event is intended to accomplish three things: to promote awareness of the problem in the community, to inform those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless of the support systems that in place to help them, and to raise funds for the local food pantry.

Here in Schoolcraft County, Demers says, there are more people who are at risk of being homeless than actually homeless.

The term “at risk” can mean many things, including an inability to make your mortgage payment or rent, being in the process of having your utilities shut off, facing hunger or lacking transportation.

“They all fit into one of our support groups for being at risk,” Demers says.

In addition to the temporary shelters and their high-profile occupants, Donate Your Pastor will feature representatives from Feeding America and the Red Cross, who will be on hand for the event.

Also participating will be personnel from Good Neighbor Services, who will be serving chili and bread.

In addition, the organization is planning a bake sale, with money raised going directly to the Manistique Ministerial Association.

Looking to the future, Demers says their goal is to hold the event annually and expand it to include elected officials, school teachers, and others who are willing to join in and help make the event an success.

Homelessness remains a serious problem in Michigan. Over 100,000 of the state’s residents were homeless at some point in 2010, about the same number as 2009, according to Homelessness Management Information System data.

Demers says the numbers locally are on the rise.

The Schoolcraft County Coalition for Safe and Stable Housing is looking for other clubs, organizations, performers and community responders to get involved.

If you or your organization wants to participate in the event, or if you need more information about services and programs available locally to help with housing needs, contact Demers at 341-5451.

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