On January 28th, teams of volunteers fanned out across the country to count the homeless. In 2007, there were 671,888 homeless people across America. With the depressed economy, it’s likely that this year’s final count will top the last census. Philip F. Mangano, executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, told the Associated Press, “You would have to be naive to believe that the loss of over 850,000 homes and over two million jobs wouldn’t have an impact.”
As I see the lines of people get longer and longer here at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), I know firsthand the impact the economy is having on our community and the nation. More and more people are looking for a place to sleep and a warm, nutritious meal. It is an unfortunate reality that we must face. There are thousands of people who are sleeping in alleys and abandoned buildings because they have no place to call home. They suffer nights with no food and are put in dangerous situations because of the recent wintry weather conditions.
Here in Detroit, our community partners — the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND) and the University of Detroit Leadership Development Institute — assembled about 150 volunteers to go out and count homeless people on the street, in abandoned buildings, under bridges, in cars, and in shelters and transitional housing. The count helps organizations like HAND and DRMM better understand the conditions of those in need and allows us to effectively evaluate our services. Once the official numbers are tallied across the country, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will determine federal funding for programs like ours that help the homeless.
Almost everyday we hear about thousands of jobs being cut. As a result, more and more people are being forced to give up their homes because they can’t pay the mortgage or utility bills to keep the lights and heat on. That is sending them out onto the streets. But whatever the cause, the homeless need our support. Everyone counts.