Homeless population counted in U.P.

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Every year at the end of January, Housing and Urban Development mandates a count of the homeless population in every county nationwide.

The numbers are used to allocate funds to local departments in charge of their county's welfare programs.

The "Point in Time" count utilizes volunteers, and local law enforcement to document the homeless population in their given county.

"They were hoping for maybe 20 volunteers and we ended up with over 40," Marquette Resident Francis McDonald said. "We get a backpack with all the information and um, we basically just go around and talk to people, we hit all the coffee shops."

The data collected is also used as a measure of population trends over the years.

Officials said the numbers stay fairly consistent in Marquette County, but that doesn't mean it's the same people every year.

"Most people who become homeless, it's a very short term thing and it, they resolve it and it never happens again, if it happens, the longer somebody is homeless, it's more likely it's going to be a recurring thing," Community Action Alger Marquette Housing Resource Manager Jason Parks said.

In 2017, 84 people were counted as living in places like a shelter, transition home, or directly on the streets.

However, local shelters show different numbers.

"I don't believe the couch surfers, so they're called, are going to be counted in this count which they really need to be if we're going to get an accurate count on the true homelessness situation here in Marquette County let alone the whole U.P.," Marquette Warming Center Manager Greg Franklin said.

Franklin said the Warming Shelter sees 20 to 25 people daily, and argues the number of homeless people in Marquette County is closer to 400 people if those living in cars, or on couches, are accurately counted.

Regardless of the precise number, or even the circumstances of how people became homeless, places like the warming shelter and Community Action Alger Marquette said they have programs available to help people who ask.

For more information on programs available, you can visit their websites at http://communityactionam.org/helpful-links, or http://roomattheinn.org/.

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