BRANCH COUNTY, MI (WTVB) – A number of organizations in Branch County continue to address a problem that has been persistent and seems to be growing in spite of the apparent turnaround in the economy. It's the plight of the homeless, something that’s hard for anyone to cope with, but the challenges are magnified if you are looking out not only for yourself, but for your children.
In Michigan, more than half of the people who are homeless are in families, according to the state's Campaign to End Homelessness. The Campaign is a public-private partnership of more than 600 agencies, including several local groups working to end homelessness one person and one family at a time.
About two-thirds of the adults in those families are women, typically single mothers. And the average age of the children is just seven years old. Families can end up homeless for any number of reasons, including an illness, accident, lost job, or domestic violence. Jennifer Ward, program director for the Family Promise of Branch County, says families need safe, affordable housing with wrap-around services appropriate to their level of need. She adds they also need a level of income that will help them sustain that housing, so income supports and educational programs and employment are important.
Keeping children in the same school is an important issue as well, and they typically fall behind if they switch schools. However, every school district in the state has a homeless liaison responsible for identifying homeless students and ensuring they get to school and have access to services. In Branch County, that person is Danelle Weaver, who can be reached at 278-7233. About 28 percent of homeless families have jobs, but the average monthly income, based on the most recent available data, was just $637. Kim Hemker, Director of the Branch County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says they’re working to make sure every family has the knowledge of the resources the community has to offer. That includes having a local number, 517.278.SAFE (7233) with a live person answering to provide the information to get to those resources as well as locating any gaps in services. For more information about the Michigan's Campaign to End Homelessness, visit www.TheCampaignToEndHomelessness.org.