Homelessness up in Michigan, down in Detroit before pandemic began

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
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An annual survey of the homeless found 8,638 people in Michigan who were homeless on a single night in 2020, an increase of 0.7% from 2019, though veteran homelessness was up by nearly 7%.

The count from last winter, conducted in late January, does not reflect the impact of the economic hardship of the pandemic over the last year.

Ali Bazzi, 26, of Dearborn, right, exchanges sneakers with a homeless man, who wished not to be identified. Bazzi and other volunteers from 1 Humanity Drive gave out food, socks, jackets and other clothing to people in need in Detroit on Jan. 5, 2020. Homelessness was down in Detroit in 2020, according to a federal report.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department's report on homelessness is a snapshot from one night in January 2020. The Michigan findings represent a decline in homelessness of nearly 70% since 2007, the agency said.

The report shows that most homeless people in Michigan (88%) were sheltered in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs at the time of the survey, while just over 1,000 were unsheltered.

HUD said the number of Michigan homeless families with children (3,371) increased  0.2% over 2019, but that they found 96% of them were sheltered in emergency or transitional housing.

The survey counted 639 homeless veterans in Michigan, which is a jump of 6.7% over January 2019 and represents a decline of nearly 34% since 2010.

The report shows 1,589 homeless individuals in the Detroit area, including 351 under age 18. That figure is down 19% from 1,965 in 2019, according to HUD data.

The report says nationally 580,466 people experienced homelessness during the one-night count in January 2020 — an increase of 12,751 people (2%) over 2019.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said $5 billion is set aside for homelessness issues as part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package adopted last week. 

"We know that, with those resources, over the next probably 12 to 18 months, we know for a fact that we can get as many as 130,000 people off the streets," Fudge said Thursday at a White House briefing.

"We also know that our local partners are going to assist us in finding other rental opportunities. So we believe we can put a major dent in it. But if nothing else, what we will let them know is that there is an opportunity to find a way off the streets."

mburke@detroitnews.com

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