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Counting Michigan's homeless

Homeless camp
Nicole Salow

Michigan organizations that help homeless people are taking part in a “snap-shot” census. The federal government requires the overnight count every other year. It’s part of the Obama administration’s plan to eradicate homelessness by 2020.

The census must happen on a single night during the last ten days of January. The count includes people who are in shelters, transitional housing, and on the street.

Gerry Leslie is with theMichigan Coalition Against Homelessness. He says it’s especially challenging to find and count homeless people in rural areas who may live in cars or in trailers that lack utilities. Leslie says that’s why Michigan organizations spend weeks ahead of time talking to homeless people to find out where they stay so they can more easily find them during the overnight count.

The census is officially called the “point-in-time count.” It happens in late January because shelters experience their highest rates of occupancy during winter months.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development sends the data to Congress to help inform funding and policy decisions.  Last year the number of homeless people counted in Michigan was down by 4.5%.

Kyle Norris is from Michigan and spent ten years as a host and reporter with Michigan Radio, the state’s largest NPR-affiliate. He lives in Seattle and works as a substitute host and producer at KNKX.
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