The Rapidian

New data reveals number of homeless up; unsheltered down

The Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness works with the "housing first" model to quickly end unsheltered homelessness.

/Shardae Johnson

New research for 2015 has revealed that the overall number of homeless people is up 15% in Kent County. In contrast, the number of homeless people without shelter is down 21%.  

Jesica Vail, program manager for the Coalition, believes the increase of homelessness is largely due to the cost of living has increased.

"We know that it's becoming more difficult to find apartments or housing that is affordable, especially on minimum wage," she says.

Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness collected the data with a point in time count of people experiencing homelessness on a random night in Kent County, with the assistance of 50 trained volunteers. During the research 26 people were identified as sleeping in places that are not fit for human habilitation.

"We focus on permanent housing solutions to homelessness, and that's keeping with the ‘housing first’ philosophy, which is the best practice," Vail says. "We also know that the majority of homeless people are experiencing homelessness for the first time, and will likely never become homeless again.”

Much like the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness, Mel Trotter sees permanent housing as the best solution to end homelessness.

"Our organization combats homelessness through our 4x4 and Transitional Programs, where individuals transition out of homelessness by finding secure employment and permanent housing," says Cindy Smies, the director of marketing and communications at Mel Trotter.

"When the economy took an unfortunate turn, the number of individuals who became homeless definitely rose," Smies says.

"Currently, there is still a need for stable employment and affordable housing for the homeless. There is also a need for resources that are accessible for homeless individuals with mental illness."

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