On any given night, there are hundreds of homeless individuals, including children in Eaton County. In 2013 alone, Housing Services Mid Michigan served 415 homeless individuals, which may or may not include the 100-plus individuals served by SIREN/Eaton Shelter on any given night.
Homelessness doesn’t have a face in Eaton County, as the problem isn’t always easily visible. That makes programs such as Project Resource Connect so important to the homeless throughout the county and the organizations designed to provide support.
This year’s event, the sixth annual, will take place Tuesday, Jan. 27 at First Lutheran Church in Charlotte connecting the homeless or those at risk of being homeless with more than 25 support services within the county, including housing, employment, health and financial services.
Project Resource Connect also provides service organizations with a point in time (PIT) count of the homeless in the area. Identifying different types of homeless individuals or families is important in making sure the right kinds of services are available.
“Part of that dynamic is our veterans,” said Mel Burke, whose primary focus with Housing Services Mid Michigan is helping veterans. “Part of the process is letting the community know because they’re going to be the ones who probably have more influence in getting them here.”
Identifying homeless veterans can be difficult for a number of reasons, Burke said. First, he said a lot of younger servicemen and women do not necessarily identify as being veterans. He said anyone who has served in the military is eligible for services. Second, Dunn said many in the military have been taught to be self-reliant, making a request for assistance difficult.
Denise Dunn, HSMM director said it’s also important to identify those who are considered “couch” homeless — individuals who do not have a permanent residence and may be relying on friends or family for short-term lodging.
“We want them to show up as well because they have needs that we have to meet in a different way,” Dunn said. “All of the problems can domino and at some point they run out of personal resources or places to turn. We would like to see them long before that happens.”
In addition to identifying the homeless in the county, the program is primarily set up to educate individuals as to the types of services available. Agencies participating in this year’s event include: Housing Services Mid Michigan, SIREN/Eaton Shelter, Capital Area Community Services, Salvation Army, Eaton County Counseling Services, Peckham, Inc., the Barry-Eaton County Health Dept., the Eaton County Dept. of Human Services, St. Vincent de Paul, Eaton Clothing and Furniture Center, Tri-County Office on Aging, Legal Services of South Central Michigan, Helping Hands, Eaton County Housing and Veterans Services, Eaton Great Start, McKinney Vento/Clinton RESA, and Gateway Community Services.
Each participant will be given an assessment as to the kinds of services that would most benefit them. They will be guided through the process of applying for assistance as well.
“There will be a lot of education taking place to make sure people are effectively getting served,” Dunn said.
Dunn is asking community members to contact Housing Services Mid Michigan — (517) 541-1180 or www.hsmidmichigan.org — if they know of any homeless individuals who could use assistance on Jan. 27. Transportation to the event is free through EATRAN. Individuals must call EATRAN to set up their ride by Jan. 26.