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Homelessness on the rise in the Upper Peninsula

Guest editorial

Homeless Awareness Month takes place every November in Michigan to raise awareness about issues relating to housing insecurity and homelessness. The hope is to get communities invested in making a difference on behalf of those who are struggling to find and maintain secure and safe shelter.

Michigan’s observance during November, which has taken place for nearly 20 years, has become an essential part of a collective effort to promote awareness and understanding of those experiencing homelessness. These past two years — 2020 and 2021 — have been predictably unpredictable. Providing services and securing housing for our communities most vulnerable residents is always challenging, but homeless service providers have had to continue this difficult work while adapting to more clients, constantly changing health and safety guidelines and drastic changes in their own lives.

Year-end 2020 numbers to consider —

— The Upper Peninsula is the only section of Michigan that saw an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness, up 4%. The state overall saw a 19% decrease in 2020 compared with 2019, in part due to a combination of factors: Eviction moratoriums, sheltering in place with family and friends, and concentrated efforts by state and local agencies to keep homelessness rare, brief and one-time only.

— While there was an overall decrease in the number of court cases resulting in eviction, there were, at the same time, significant increases in people asking for gas, electric, water and food assistance.

A wise person said, “The solution to homelessness is housing!” Until there is sufficient and adequate housing for everyone, the best we can do is to keep homelessness rare, brief and one time.

Dickinson/Iron County homeless services are provided by a pool of agencies at the state, county and local levels. There is a 10-county local planning body that addresses the needs of the central U.P. counties from the Keweenaw to Menominee, including Dickinson and Iron counties. There is also a 61-county balance of state group that has responsibility for oversight and education.

Locally in the Dickinson/Iron County area there are a variety of agencies that serve the homeless in a variety of ways.

More information about local services can be obtained by calling 211. There are so many caring people in this area who support and desire to see an end to homelessness in our communities. If you want to know more, please contact the Dickinson/Iron Housing Resource Group at DIHomelesshousing@gmail.com.

You can also educate yourself on the larger issues and possible solutions of Homelessness at the following websites —

— National Alliance to End Homelessness: www.endhomelessness.org

— Coalition for the Homeless: www.colationforthehomelsess.org

— Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness: www.michigan.gov/mcteh

— Invisible People: www.invisiblepeople.tv

— National Low Income Housing Coalition: www.nilhc.org

— The Rev. Geri Hamlen, pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church

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