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Human service agencies connect to homeless

January 20, 2014

Project Housing Connect, a once a year event for local people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, drew a near record turnout of 251, according to registration data.

Amanda Johnson, housing specialist at Midland Area Homes and coordinator of the one day program, compiled the data gathered at the program sponsored by Midland County Continuum of Care and held in early November at First United Methodist Church. She reports that 251 individuals came through the door, a ten percent increase over the previous three-year average.

For three hours a steady stream of people lined up to avail themselves of the free services of more than two dozen government and non-profit human service agencies. When the doors closed at 2 p.m. the tables of free clothing, personal care and laundry products, and food items were virtually empty.

Two services not previously offered at Project Housing Connect were free eye and dental care. All appointments were filled well before the event.

The bigger turnout may be due in part to the number of children affected by homelessness.“We are impacting more children than we ever have at the event with 142 children [in 2013] compared to 118 children in 2012,” said Johnson.

More of those who came seeking help are employed than in any previous year, Johnson noted, but “the average income seems to be going down.” 168 of the 251 registrants reported household income of $1,500 a month or less. 41 had no income.

The 251 registrants represented 450 individuals and 191 households, 70 of them currently residing in shelters, staying temporarily with friends or family, in transition, and even a few (4) surviving in a car or tent. The majority (133) live in rental housing.

After studying the statistics for the day, Johnson concluded, “There is still a big need out there for people who are struggling with their housing.”

As in previous years the Open Door Ministries provided free lunch to all who came. Community volunteers came to staff the serving line.

Project Housing Connect is sponsored by Midland County Continuum of Care and the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. The Midland Continuum combines the efforts of more than 20 non-profit and governmental agencies to prevent homelessness by providing housing-related services to those who are homeless or living in substandard housing.

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