Pandemic aid had impact on homelessness in Michigan

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new report from the state of Michigan shows that homelessness went down by 19% in 2020 compared to 2019. 

“Seeing a decrease of 19% is pretty significant, ” says Jason Weller, the coordinator of Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness

The report states that in 2020, 30,805 people experienced homelessness statewide. In 2019, 38,247 individuals experienced homeless in Michigan. 

The drop is tied to various factors, including people not wanting to enter a homeless shelter amid a pandemic. 

“A lot of service providers reporting back that people were reluctant to come into a shelter or seek services in general, for a variety of reasons,” Weller said. “Mostly related to health.” 

Other reasons include the millions of dollars in rental assistance doled out by the state, plus the moratorium on evictions. 

“It opened policymakers’ eyes to the fact that so many Americans are one job loss or one paycheck away from a lot of insecurity,” Weller said. “Whether rent or mortgage payment, being able to pay medical bills, putting food on table, utility bills, whatever it may be.”

While it was a tough period for many who found themselves in these types of situations, Weller says it shined a light on how policymakers can do their part to end homelessness. 

“Those various moratoriums, in combination with rental assistance really began to see, OK it is possible to begin to close the front door on homelessness if we actually focus resources to do it,” Weller said. 

According to a database from the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness, around 8,026 people in Kent County experienced homelessness in 2020. 

Weller is urging people who hesitant about receiving help, to do so, as outdoor conditions will get rough over the coming months. 

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