2009-11-08 / Opinion

Make a difference; help the homeless in Lapeer County

Michigan Homeless Awareness Week is Nov. 15-21. During this week, concerned citizens, community organizations, and government partnerships collaborate to find solutions for ending homelessness. Michigan Homeless Awareness Week is not just about promoting awareness — it’s about getting involved.

There are an estimated staggering 86,189 homeless people living in Michigan. More than half of Michigan’s homeless population is comprised of families.

One in three homeless persons in Michigan is a child. High unemployment, 18 percent in Lapeer County, and a high number of home foreclosures are leading factors that have put area many families in great jeopardy.

Thirty-seven percent of single persons homeless in 2008 were homeless for the first time.

Striving to make a difference, last year in January Lapeer County had the first Project Homeless Connect event. More than 320 Lapeer County residents participated in the event.

At that time, 126 persons were identified as homeless (89 adults, 37 children). Sixty eight percent were living with family or friends or couch surfing. Another 32 percent were living in a shelter or in places not meant for human habitation such as in their vehicle in the Wal-Mart parking lot, on the street, or in an abandoned building.

An additional 200 people participated in the event who were not homeless but living in rentals or who owned their own home but were struggling with minimal incomes. The event was a huge success. Many Lapeer County residents were provided with support services and personal needs items.

These numbers are real, and the problem of homelessness in Lapeer County is serious. However, this January you can make a difference. It’s a little way out, but in this upcoming holiday season of get-togethers with friends and family, let’s not forget those who have nowhere to go — nowhere to call home to decorate and entertain for the holidays.

Instead, dozens of area residents will continue their struggle just to survive.

Homelessness is particularly difficult during the cold winter months, and we ask you to do what you can to make life easier for those without the basic comfort of a permanent roof over their heads, and where they don’t have to worry where their next meal is going to come from.

In Lapeer County, the second Project Homeless Connect Event will take place Jan. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lapeer Center Building. The purpose of the event is to provide people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with access to community resources and housing assistance.

You can help by informing people of the magnitude of homelessness in Lapeer County. You can help by promoting this event by posting a flyer at your place of business or agency. You can help by participating in the event as a service agency or service business.

You can donate items for the raffle such as restaurant vouchers, store gift cards, gas cards. You can donate personal needs items or paper products or cleaning supplies. You can donate your time and volunteer at the event for a variety of tasks.

If interested in participating in the event with a booth providing information or services, contact Karen Rykhus at 810-664-8248. The deadline for booth registration is Dec. 18. Those who would like to make a financial contribution for the event, can contact Sue Brady at 810-245-2414.

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