By Victoria Lafean
Do you hate the feeling of the cold walk from the car to your favorite shopping center? Think if you had to sleep in that cold. How about wearing the same outfit a couple times a week or complaining about the laundry you have to do. What if that outfit was the only one you had? Do you look forward to a hot meal when you get home, only to find out its leftovers in the microwave? Imagine hoping for a plate at the local soup kitchen.
Within the state of Michigan, we’ve experienced a large decrease in homelessness. A decrease of eight percent, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In Michigan, 8,351 homeless people were counted at the end of 2018. Of those, the majority, 7,452, were in shelters or transitional housing. The number of homeless veterans fell from 2017 by 10.3 percent and homeless families with children fell by 9 percent.
Since 2010, the number of homeless people in the nation — including those in shelters and those living on the streets — has declined, from 637,077 to 552,830, with a slight uptick in the last two years. In 2016, the number hit a low of 549,928. Nationally, homelessness among veterans fell from last year by 5.4 percent, and among families with children by 2.7 percent, according to Frank Witsil of the Detroit Free Press in December of 2018.
Even though our numbers are showing a decrease in homelessness there are still people out there struggling. What can you do? Sometimes it can be uncomfortable being approached by a homeless person. Too often, well-intended gifts are converted to drugs or alcohol- even when the “hard luck” stories they tell are true.
Instead of giving money, give food. A sandwich and a beverage. Sometimes all they need is someone to talk to. Talk with them with respect. You don’t know the life that person has lived. Speaking with them in a friendly, respectful manner can give them a wonderful sense of civility and dignity. And besides being just neighborly, it gives the person a weapon to fight the isolation, depression, and paranoia that many homeless people face.
There are other options one can do. You can donate old clothing, towels, blankets etc. to local thrift stores. Local stores in Port Huron are Salvation Army Thrift Store, 729 Howard Street, (810) 985-6385, and Goodwill Industries, 1013 26th Street, Port Huron, (810) 987-9333 ext. 111. And 4177 24th Ave, Fort Gratiot Twp, MI 48059, (810) 385-5541.
Donations are also accepted at local shelters such as:
The above shelters also accept residents if there is availability. Keeping these numbers handy is also another way to help that person who is sleeping on the side of the road. If you can’t give old possessions give your time. You can volunteer at St. Martin Lutheran Church’s Soup Kitchen, 805 Chestnut St, (810) 982-9261. Sometimes warm socks and a hot meal is all someone needs.
Lafean currently resides in Fort Irwin, California. Lafean’s husband Evan is currently serving as a soldier in the U.S Army. Her hometown is Port Huron Michigan. Both Evan and Victoria hope to return after Evan completes his military service.