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Project Housing Connect Report

January 5, 2015

by Joe Mortensen

Project Housing Connect’s annual one-day one-stop-shop once again offered a generous menu of practical assistance to those in Midland County who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Those who came availed themselves of free winter wear such as fleece gloves, supplies of detergent, and the sling packs provided by Shelter House and given to every attendee.

They also took advantage of the counsel and help of the two dozen or more local governmental, church-related, social service, and healthcare agencies related to Midland County Continuum of Care which sponsors the annual event.

This year’s event stood out from prior years in one important measure: attendance. Turnout was down 40% from last year.

Is the smaller turnout good news or bad? Amanda Johnson, coordinator of the event and housing specialist at Midland Area Homes, ponders the registration data, trying to figure out why 107 fewer people than last year came through the door on November 5 at First United Methodist Church of Midland.

The statistics Johnson compiles offer a few clues. For one thing, no one who registered this year had received an eviction notice, compared to 8 last year and more than 20 the two years before that.

Another clue is the number of unemployed individuals among those who showed up. Compared to an average of 15 the previous three years, this year there was only one without some kind of work.

Johnson points to another bit of data: a noticeable drop in the number of individuals “couch-surfing” (finding temporary shelter with a friend) or “doubled-up” (staying with family). Last year there were 40 people in those categories. This year it was 17.

Local employment statistics may also shed light on the matter. A December 3 Midland Daily News article reported a drop in the local unemployment rate to 4.7%. Johnson says, “As much as anything the data cited in the article may explain our smaller turnout. More people may be finding work.”

Yet the local labor force has shrunk by 250 employed people and 225 unemployed. Johnson’s best guess is that many of those 475 people moved elsewhere, some of them out of state, and that too may be a reason why fewer people came to this year’s Project Housing Connect.

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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