Help for the homeless

ESCANABA – In an effort to educate the public about what services are available to those in need, several agencies “connected” Wednesday at the Salvation Army to raise community awareness about various programs.

“Mostly, we want to get what services are out there and fill any gaps,” explained Nisha Coolman, coordinator for the Delta County Coalition Against Homelessness.

The local organization, in conjunction with the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, sponsored the second annual Delta County Connect Event, inviting agencies and businesses to participate.

Wedne”We can help make lasting change in people’s lives by combining our power and conserving our resources,” said Coolman.

The public was invited to visit 15 booths from 5 to 7 p.m. A dinner was provided by Boy Scout Troop 466 of Gladstone and the local Elks Club.

“We want the community to know what is available so we can help where there is a need,” added Coolman.

Agency representatives provided displays and informational brochures on their programs. Services available related to mental health, family services, housing, suicide prevention, veterans assistance, and public health.

“As a community, we need to work with mental illness and substance abuse more,” said Coolman.

There is also a great need for educational services and sustainable employment opportunities, she added.

Community awareness and involvement, including volunteers, is also a goal of the Connect Event, said Coolman. Many agencies depend on volunteer assistance and various donations to help keep operations going, she added.

Last year, 511 people were homeless or in eminent risk of being homeless in Delta County, she said.

Coolman said this statistic is actually higher because some local agencies don’t report the number of needy people they serve. Also, many homeless individuals are never recorded because they are living with family or “couch surfing” from one home to another.

Currently, the community is looking at organizing a rotating emergency shelter to house the homeless on a nightly basis at local churches, said Coolman.sday’s program began with local agencies networking to discuss what services they offer and how they can work together to meet the community’s needs.