"It's a big city issue, we don't have homeless people here"
There are 1.6 Billion homeless individuals across the globe, "...but it's not an issue here".
There were 582,462 homeless individuals across the United States in 2022, "...but it's not an issue here".
Last year, Chippewa-Luce-Mackinac Community Action Agency, our local Housing Assessment and Resource Agency (HARA) served over 700 homeless individuals, "...but, it's not an issue here."
As part of the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month staff from both of our agencies came together to shed a light on just how much of an issue homelessness and hunger are right here in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. We have always hidden our homeless population from view, but that doesn't mean they aren't here, struggling to survive.
Some of the homeless individuals are youth who couch surf from friend's house to friend's house, staying only until their friend's parent get tired of having them around. Sometimes an entire family sleeps on the floor of a Good Samaritan or relative. Families, seniors, our Military Veterans go hungry in silence without reliable access to the resources they need regularly. We have a group of homeless individuals living outside, yes, even in the cold winter temperatures and snowstorms we've seen the past few weeks. There is no where else for them to go. We asked some of the people without homes, trying to navigate sleeping outdoors at night what they would share if they could tell someone about their circumstance. One woman shared the following, "that it's not always our faults we are here in a situation - that we are survivors of our environment. I'm aware things don't grow on trees. I'm blessed to be getting anything."
It's a shame it has to happen at all. It's more of a shame that there's so much stigma attached to this suffering. Whether pride or fear, many won't reach out for help, and those who do turn up few or no resources in our neck of the woods. Agencies who are here to help are strapped for funding or don't have enough staff or space to do what needs to be done. We have many barriers in our community that, until we can come together to work through, will continue to be a roadblock for those in need.
Our hope is that spending a few hours bringing awareness to what is daily life for over 700 people in our area is, at least, a way to start a conversation in our community.
What can we do differently or better to make access to resources easier?
What do we need in our community to support those who are in need of shelter, housing, food, or other basic resources?
How can we support each other to make our community one that thrives?
If you missed reading some of the cardboard signs that were being held by United Way of the Eastern Upper Peninsula and Chippewa-Luce-Mackinac Community Action Agency staff today, you can read them here:
- There were 1.6 Billion homeless people in the World last year
- Nationally, 582,462 were homeless in 2022
- In the last year, nearly 750 homeless individuals were served in the E.U.P.
- Indigenous individuals make up approximately 30% of the homeless population in the E.U.P. within the last year
- 56 Veterans, Seniors, and Retirees over the age of 62 years experienced homelessness in the E.U.P.
- 205 youth, aged 18 years and under, experienced homelessness in the E.U.P. within the last year
- Only 2% of the homeless individuals served in the last year were addiction dependent
- 13% of homeless individuals served in the last year had a medically diagnosed mental health disorder
Special note: thank you to all of those who stopped to check on our event participants today. Many of you offered assistance, not realizing it was a staged awareness event, and we greatly appreciate that.
You can donate today to help further United Way of the EUP's work in the community by visiting: 2023 Holiday Spirit Special Fundraiser Donations received will help families with food and warm clothing through the winter months.