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Annual count provides snapshot of homelessness

October 19, 2014

Annual count provides snapshot of homelessness

by Joe Mortensen

Help for the homeless in the Midland area is making a difference, but much remains to be done.

That’s how Amanda Johnson, housing specialist at Midland Area Homes, views the data from the annual Point in Time Count (PIT) of homeless persons taken in January 2014. She noted only minor changes in the numbers from the previous year. “Assistance in the community is making an impact,” she said.

Yet she was quick to point out the ongoing challenge. “We are seeing more high need cases this year that require more case management services to resolve the situation and find a housing solution,” Johnson said.

The severe winter has also exacerbated the situation, making it difficult for those who have jobs to put in their usual hours and earn enough to pay rent and very high bills for heat and electricity.

On the night the count was taken more than 200 men, women, and children in Midland County were either homeless or at great risk of it.

Sue LaBean, director of The Open Door, a ministry serving men, women, and children through its men’s and women’s shelters and soup kitchen, reported that their facilities have both been full to overflowing on most nights this winter.

Shelterhouse, Midland’s haven for victims of domestic abuse – one significant cause of homelessness – is almost always at capacity, according to Kimberlee Bruce, director of client and community advocacy at Shelterhouse. “Our shelter is consistently full and this winter was no exception. We average 13 people in shelter each night, about half of which are children,” Bruce said.

Every January social service agencies which are part of Midland County Continuum of Care must submit the count of homeless persons to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The PIT count includes those housed in emergency shelters, transitional housing, domestic abuse shelters, and in places not fit for human habitation (such as cars or tents) on a single night. and provides a lens through which to assess progress in sheltering the homeless.

Not counted in the reported numbers are other individuals at high risk of homelessness such as  “couch-surfers” — people staying no more than 2 days in one place — and those doubling up with friends or family.

Midland County Continuum of Care unites the efforts of more than 20 private and public  agencies working to prevent homelessness by providing housing-related services to those who are homeless or living in substandard housing.

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