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Homeless veteran and youth populations decline

Senior and family homeless rates are rising.

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) released its annual report over homelessness in the state. According to the 2018 overview, there are 65,2014 homeless individuals in Michigan and 14,985 in the Grand Rapids area.

Both Michigan and Grand Rapids' numbers have increased by over 2,000 since 2017, and Kelly Rose, chief housing solutions officer at MSHDA, said she's particularly seen numbers rise in Kent County. 

The report cited household income, access to housing, and lack of mental health services as challenges that can cause or prolong homelessness, and listed seniors and families as the groups with growing rates. 

Singles 25 years old and older make up the largest part of the homeless populations, followed by children in families, adults in families, seniors, the chronic homeless, youth, veterans and unaccompanied minors. 

White and African American individuals held the highest numbers across the board in the report's demographic summary. 

"Most folks that are experiencing homelessness are extremely low income. For a family experiencing homelessness their average income for us is less than $700 a month," Rose said, adding that seniors see roughly $940 per month.

31 percent of seniors are experiencing homelessness for the first time after age 55, and 77 percent of them are disabled.

60 percent of homeless families are led by a single mother. More than 6,231 family households have exited homeless services, with about one in four homeless and unaccompanied minors experiencing the Michigan foster care system.

Youth - 18 to 24 years old - and veterans saw lower numbers this year. The data showed 3,995 youth and 3,605 veterans. However, Shandra Steininger, co-founder and executive director of HQ drop-in center said she fears some children may be getting lost in the numbers.

"We've served over 1,300 unique youth, and I can tell you in the last three years, those numbers have stayed pretty steady," she said, saying she serves around 200 youth and teens a week. 

According to the reports introduction letter from Governor Gretchen Whitmer, "Service providers across the state are leveraging best practices and forging new partnerships to create a coordinated system focused on the diverse needs of individuals and families faced with homelessness.”

Rose said each year MSHDA allocates more than $70 million in state and federal funding to help individuals experiencing homelessness, with the end goal of getting them into permanent housing.

"We know that with more funds we can house more people, it's just as simple as that," she explained.

For a full review of the report, click here.

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