Event focuses on helping homeless

ESCANABA – The Delta County Coalition Against Homelessness’ 3rd annual Project Homeless Connect Event is set for May 29 in Escanaba.

The event will take place from noon to 3 p.m. at the Escanaba Civic Center, located at 225 N. 21st St., and is free to the public. Funding support is provided by the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH).

According to Jessica Ebner, housing case manager for the Escanaba Salvation Army and secretary of the Delta County Coalition Against Homelessness, the Project Homeless Connect Event offers those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness an opportunity to see what kinds of programs and services are available from local agencies and organizations – all under one roof.

“One of the things that we’re really trying to target this year is to try to make sure that the word ‘homeless’ doesn’t deter people because if you’re not specifically homeless on that day or right now, that’s OK,” she said. “This is an event for people that are basically struggling – ones that don’t know if they’re going to be able to pay their rent next month or have an eviction notice…There’s going to be agencies that can financially assist these people but then there’s also the proactive agencies too.”

There are currently 24 confirmed agencies who will be on hand to speak about available services during the event in the areas of housing, employment, social services, mental and physical health care, education and more.

A free lunch will be provided, as well as free hair cuts, free raffle prizes, and a free goodie bag for the first 50 people in attendance.

New this year is a free bus ride service to and from the event.

“There’s two different times for each location,” said Ebner. “They’ll pick them up, bring them to the Civic Center and then there will also be bus rides back to those places.”

In Escanaba, free bus rides will depart twice from the following locations: Viau’s Market at 11:40 a.m. and 12:40 p.m., Our Place Drop Inn at 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., and the Salvation Army at 11:50 a.m. and 12:50 p.m.

Bus service will also be available in Gladstone departing from the St. Vincent de Paul at 11:25 a.m. and 12:25 p.m., and McDonalds at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

“I think there’s a lot of people that probably have never been in that kind of situation before and they don’t know that there are these services that are available,” said Ebner, on the importance of the Project Homeless Connect Event. “This event is going to show them that we’re here to help and there’s agencies and programs that are available to help them through this hard time.”

Homelessness continues to be an issue of ongoing concern throughout Delta County.

In 2013 there were 735 homeless individuals captured on the Michigan Statewide Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) in Delta County, according to Elizabeth Graham, a system administrator from the MCAH.

Of this amount, approximately 65 percent were adults and children in 182 households. The average age of homeless children was around 7 years of age; for adults in those families, the average age was 31 years old.

“Due to the fact that 100 percent of homeless individuals are not captured on HMIS, we establish a coverage rate used to adjust the annual count and estimate the total number of homeless individuals in a year,” said Graham. “Using this coverage rate, it is estimated that there were about 1,336 individuals experiencing homelessness in Delta County at some point in 2013.”

For more information on the Project Homeless Connect Event, contact Ebner at 786-0590.