Homelessness impacting all U.P. counties

We’ve all been there, you need to apply for a job or bank loan, or visit a prospective landlord hoping to rent an apartment, or maybe your headed to the secretary of state to register a vehicle, the only problem is, you forgot to bring all the documents that prove you are who you say you are.

It happens, right? Things like drivers licenses, state I.D.s, Social Security cards and birth certificates — important as they are — get misplaced on occasion. Most of us, when faced with that scenario would simply go home and look for the missing items.

But what about people who are dealing with homelessness? What do they do when they don’t have any form of I.D.?

People who volunteer at shelters say its a common theme. A person experiencing homelessness does not have an I.D. because they don’t have a place of residence to list on the I.D. Lack of identification then bars them from such things as jobs, government assistance. and — yes– housing. It can be a vicious cycle, one which people who are lucky enough to have housing may not think about.

That’s why events like ‘Hidden Hardships: Homelessness in the Upper Peninsula,’ put on by a group of organizations that help people experiencing homelessness in the region are so important.

Organizations that are invested in helping others, like the Janzen House, Room at the Inn, Superior Connections, the Marquette Women’s Center, and Community Action Alger Marquette, came together to talk about homelessness in a very forthright way.

“The demand for our emergency shelter services in the U.P. and other housing services has far exceeded our current supply and we are here to sound the alarm. The solution to ending homelessness is not more homeless shelters, but rather community-driven affordable housing solutions,” said Room at the Inn Executive Director Chelsie Wilkinson.

Organizers, including the Central 10-County Local Planning Body and the Associated Students of Northern Michigan University also made it a point to separate attendees into break-out groups to talk about the very real issues a person who is experiencing homelessness may face.

A few statistics provide some context for the U.P. Out of 15 counties only three have a shelter for people who are experiencing homelessness; only one county accepts families who are experiencing homelessness, and five counties have shelters for people that experience homelessness due to domestic or sexual violence.

It’s estimated that 166 households in the region experience homelessness on any given night.

We, as a community need to get on the right track.

Trying to muster up some empathy would be a good first step. And if you come across a homeless person, maybe dial 211 and help them to get assistance. Michigan 2-1-1 is a free-to-use, confidential service that connects you with local community-based organizations across the state offering thousands of different programs and services for people seeking answers, according to the United Way website.

If we try to lift people out of homelessness by getting them the help they need to get on the right track, or support the organizations that are trying to do so, it could make a big difference. And if you have gently used or new household items, or food, even toilet paper – call one of the organizations above to see if they have a need for them.

Any little bit helps keep these organizations sustainable. We owe it to the people that work so hard to help those in need every day to find a way to contribute in any way we can.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today