Homelessness in Michigan is a crisis that continues to escalate.
Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness recently released its 2009 Annual Summary on Michigan homelessness trends. The group estimated that 100,000 people experienced homelessness in 2009. This is a nearly 11 percent increase from the estimated 90,300 homeless in 2008 and more than 28 percent higher than 2006 estimates.
According to the report, more than half of the homeless in Michigan were adults and children in families. Single women headed 65 percent of these homeless families, and the average homeless child was only 7 years old.
About 22,700 at-risk and homeless children were served in Michigan public schools in the 2009-2010 school year. These children are four times more likely than nonhomeless children to show delayed development and twice as likely to have learning disabilities. They are also four times as likely to have health-related problems such as asthma and respiratory infections.
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP), funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has provided $23 million in financial grant assistance to those experiencing homelessness or to individuals and families who are trying to prevent homelessness from occurring. Within its first year, HPRP has helped 14,892 people avoid homelessness. Of those, 86 percent did not have an extensive history of homelessness, and 49 percent exited the program within the first year.
HPRP has accomplished much in its first year. What is frightening is that 100 percent of HPRP grants must be spent within two years of their initiation by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). If Michigan’s economy continues to recover at a slow pace, one can only imagine what the homelessness trends will look like in future years without the help from HPRP. Grants that are similar to the HPRP need to be continued in future budgets if we want to see positive gains in the fight against homelessness in Michigan.
Education about this growing problem and who it is affecting is critical. According to a poll conducted by EPIC-MRA in June, 85 percent of Michiganders believe that homelessness is a serious problem. However, only 40 percent believe that more needs to be done to combat it.
There are 100,000 people in Michigan who would disagree.
For more information, please click on the 2009 Annual Summary box at the top of the page on the campaign’s website.
Audrey Dowell is a graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and an intern at the Michigan League for Human Services.