Mlive recently published an article with this title: Homeless Count Hits 7-Year High in Kent County.
You can read the article here.
Dennis VanKampen, our CEO and Executive Director, responded to this article with the below comments. It’s worth a read.
It is important to remember that the Point in Time Count (PIT) only captures the homeless staying in shelters and homeless that can be located on one given night, and one night only. Exceptions to this one-night survey may be individuals and families that may be sleeping on someone’s couch for a night, people that paid for a cheap motel for one night (but lack stable income and housing) or those that may have been unable to take the survey that night for some other reason. So while the PIT Count brings awareness to the rise in homelessness the annual numbers are even more concerning. In 2014 alone, MTM serviced 7,258 unique individuals that were homeless, this number includes men, single women, but also many children and families.
Homelessness is a community problem. Because it is a community issue, it will take everyone in that community to end this chronic problem. It is not the fault or the solution of one agency. Ending homelessness in Grand Rapids will truly take the entire community- that includes non-profits, businesses, residents, and visitors. Why does everyone need to be involved in this solution? Because it’s a complex issue. Just like there was not one cause or solution to homelessness, there is not one reason an individual finds themselves homeless. The lack of affordable housing, stable long-term employment and accessible transportation are all large hurdles to jump in order to transition an individual out of homelessness.
Another large issue to be addressed: finding ways to help and transition the mentally ill out of homelessness. This is an entire population that needs our attention.
Here’s where I think we have to remind ourselves that although homelessness is a large issue, the possibilities of a solution are greater. With the collaborations of non-profits, businesses, churches, residents and the entire city, it’s impossible to think that this is an issue greater than our hope and desire for change.
At Mel Trotter, we see hope! In 2014 alone, we helped 171 individuals find permanent housing and 112 find full time permanent employment. Many reunited with families, found support groups through churches and AA, etc. and for those who were searching for a relationship with God, many took steps in their faith journey to follow Christ, connect with a church and enter discipleship programs. Our mission is to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to the hungry, hurting and homeless and as this report shows there are many more of them, especially families and teenagers since the recession of 2008.
My hope is that the PIT Count would ignite a serious conversation as a community that includes business leaders, faith leaders, community and government leaders, mental health and addiction experts and leaders from organizations that serve the homeless community, where we seek to collaborate for the good of each homeless individual and family so we can truly end homelessness one life at a time. No one should live under a bridge, in a car, on someone’s couch or in their shed, and no one should have to stay in a shelter, hotel or church basement one day longer than necessary to help them move into a future filled with hope, restoration, and dignity.