Lansing — Almost 2,700 Michigan homeless residents last year found stable housing in 2016, leading to a 9 percent drop in the state’s population, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority said Wednesday.
Since 2015, homelessness dropped 9 percent to 66,483 as 2,680 more people found a place to live between 2015 and 2016 and Kent County received a federal award for being the first Michigan community to “functionally end veteran homelessness,” according to MSHDA, meaning there are more housed veterans than newly homeless veterans each month.
Statewide, the number of homeless veterans dropped 16 percent, the report said. The number of homeless people dying while on the streets also dropped from 156 in 2015 to 133 in 2016, the report said.
That drop comes as “many parts of the country are seeing increases in the number of people experiencing homelessness,” said Earl Poleski, MSHDA’s executive director. “This annual report tells a story about our collective work, and the story is that we are making progress where it matters most.”
In total, 22,211 people found permanent housing after living on the streets or in shelters and the majority of the homeless population had health insurance in 2016, the report said. Most were on Medicaid, the health program for low-income earners.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services pitches in $32 million every year to fight homelessness.
But the real change stems from adopting a new model in 2014 that coordinated homelessness response efforts more efficiently. That included using a database that let experts better track where homeless people are seeking medical or housing help, said Misty Miller, a spokeswoman for MSHDA.
The report shows that nearly 4,000 fewer people were homeless by 2015, after the state adopted the so-called Housing First model.
Nearly half of the state’s homeless population — 43 percent — were made up of families and children, usually single women with kids, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the number of homeless seniors climbed from 7,282 in 2014 to 7,919 in 2016, the report said.
“MSHDA allocates more than $70 million in state and federal funding each year to help individuals experiencing homelessness with the goal of getting them into permanent housing,” said Kelly Rose, chief housing solutions officer at MSHDA and governor-appointed chair of the Michigan Interagency Council on Homelessness.
“This report shows us that we are making an impact, but there is still work to be done,” she said.