2012-06-07 / Community

Homelessness decreases across Michigan, locally

New data released by coalition, rates drop

LANSING – The leaders of Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness announced there were 6,143 fewer Michigan residents who were homeless for any part of 2011 than who were homeless during 2010. The Campaign focuses on preventing homelessness or, when that’s not possible, quickly finding housing solutions, while addressing the issues that led to the individual’s or family’s housing crisis.

A total of 94,033 people were homeless in Michigan sometime in 2011, according to data compiled by the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. That was down from 100,176 in 2010. All figures are from the Homeless Management Information System, which is used in communities across Michigan to track the numbers of homeless individuals and the services they receive. HMIS was developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for nationwide use.

Those involved in the coalition see the six percent reduction between 2010 and 2011 as strong evidence the campaign’s strategies of prevention and rapid re-housing are helping individuals and families find and sustain stable places to live.

“This is great news for Michigan individuals, families, and communities,” said Sally Harrison, director of the Housing Voucher Programs and Homeless Initiatives division for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. “Homelessness remains a major issue, but the work of our community partners across the state is clearly paying off.”

In Region 1, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, 3,854 people were homeless at some point in 2011. That represented a decline of 449 people or 10.4 percent over 2010.

“We are gratified that our communities, local agencies and dedicated volunteers have succeeded in preventing or ending homelessness for many of our friends and neighbors struggling to sustain a safe, affordable place to live,” said Kelli Beaudry, chairperson of the Schoolcraft County Coalition For Safe and Stable Housing.

The Campaign to End Homelessness, launched in 2006, is a statewide effort to ensure safe and stable housing for all state residents, one individual and one family at a time. The campaign emphasizes cooperation and collaboration by more than 600 partner agencies and by the workers and volunteers at those organizations. Its coordinated efforts and greater attention to data is credited with enabling local agencies to make informed decisions about the use of resources.

This new 2011 analysis of homelessness in Michigan shows:

• The biggest improvement came in an 8.7 percent reduction in the number of families who were homeless. The number of single individuals who were without housing declined by 3.2 percent.

• About 52 percent of the homeless were in families, disproving the myth that most people who are homeless are single males.

• The number of households that had retained their housing after seven months increased from 74 percent in 2009 to 89 percent.

• Homelessness declined in six of the eight regions in Michigan. The biggest improvements were in South Central Michigan (18.8 percent), West Central Michigan (11.8 percent) and the Upper Peninsula (10.4 percent).

• In the past three years, 70 percent of those who made use of homeless shelters did not return to shelters anywhere in the state once they exited the shelter. That’s strong evidence that the focus on finding long-term stable affordable housing and providing support services is making a difference.

Another purpose of the campaign is to work with people to prevent or quickly end homelessness as a starting point, because individuals and families have a better chance of addressing underlying issues when they have a stable place to live. Local organizations work together to provide the most appropriate services for each situation. Those can include anything from mortgage assistance and subsidized housing to employment or domestic violence services.

“While Michigan’s improving economic conditions were a factor in the decline in homelessness, the work of community organizations has been crucial in ending homelessness for thousands of individuals and families,” said Eric Hufnagel, executive director of the MCAH.

If you or someone you know is in need of housing and contact the local coalition office at (906) 341- 5451.

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