Michigan communities prepare for annual count of homeless population

Kalamazoo County Homeless Encampments
Posted at 12:54 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 12:54:29-05

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan communities will participate on Wednesday in an annual event to produce a snapshot of the number of people experiencing homelessness during the coldest month of the year.

The Point-in-Time count takes place on the last Wednesday of January and is required for homelessness programs that are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a news release Tuesday.

During the traditional count, communities tally the number of people in shelters – including domestic violence shelters – and the number of people who are unsheltered.

That includes people sleeping in tent cities, in their cars or in abandoned buildings.

This year, however, because of risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, communities could request a waiver for the unsheltered portion of the count.

Many Michigan communities, including 83 rural counties, will not be participating in the unsheltered portion of the count.

HUD is still requiring service providers to count the number of individuals living in shelters.

The PIT count is just one tool Michigan communities can use to raise awareness of homelessness at the state and local levels.

In addition, the Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness recently published an annual report that identifies that more than 61,000 individuals experienced homelessness in Michigan in 2019.

“As Michiganders recover from the physical, mental and financial effects of COVID-19, housing is going to become a critical need for folks who never experienced housing instability before as well as an ongoing struggle for those currently experiencing homelessness,” said Eric Hufnagel, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. “We have opportunities to better understand homelessness in our state through tools like the PIT count and the Michigan State Homeless Management Information System. Only by understanding what homelessness looks like in our state can we hope to find solutions so that everyone has access to safe housing.”