July 15 • 08:41 PM

Area homeless need support

November 12, 2008
Editor's note: The following guest column was submitted by Pamela Drake of the Lapeer County United Way's Housing Resource Center. Drake writes to raise awareness for the area's homeless during Homeless Awareness Week which runs November 9-15.

Believe it or not, Lapeer County has a significant number of people who fall into the homeless category.

With the closing of businesses and jobs going overseas, many people find themselves in situations they never thought possible. People are being forced to decide between feeding their children or paying their mortgage or rent, and often the mortgage/rent loses the battle and people end upon the streets or move in with relatives. Some stay in shelters or in their cars.

Many folks stay warm and dry by using a practice known as "couch surfing." This means hopping from the couch of friend to friend and staying a few nights here and a few nights there. If there is more than one person, such as a spouse, significant other and/or children, couch surfing becomes very difficult and causes great stress on the family tryng to stay together. It also stresses the people who are trying to provide them assistance.

Currently, the Homeless Assistance Recovery Program voucher list has about 108 people on it and several others who are still going through the application process to be added to the waiting list. HARP is a program through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority that has provided housing to several formerly homeless people all across the state.

We are hosting a Project Homeless Connect on January 29 here in Lapeer County at the American Legion Post, 1701 W. Genesee, Lapeer. This event is designed to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. There will be many local non-profits, service providers and organizations participating in this one-stop for help event. Participants will be able to sign up for services, receive personal hygiene products, haircuts, clothes and oral exams, to name a few of the services that will be provided.

For readers who would like to help local people who are going through a rough time, there are many ways to participate in Project Homeless Connect. We are looking for donations of paper products such as diapers, toilet paper, tissues, feminine napkins and wet wipes. Clothing items, especially sweaters, mittens, hats, coats, gloves, socks and pants for all ages and both genders are also being sought. Food is another commodity that we will be distributing to participants so non-perishable food items and hand-held can openers are welcome. We are also looking for personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, combs, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc.

Donations may be made at the Lapeer Teamwork Consignment Shop located at 1785 W. Genesee, Lapeer, from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday today, tomorrow and Friday (Nov. 12-14). Please ask for Rachelle and be sure to let her know that the donations are for Project Homeless Connect.

For readers who are able to provide professional services free of charge, their help would be greatly appreciated. We have a couple of generous souls who have volunteered to give haircuts that day, and we would welcome the services of any licensed hair stylist. Manicurists, opticians, optometrists, massage therapists, dentists (thank you Dr. Thomas Jackson and Dr. Christine Muzychka for volunteering), doctors, nurses, etc. are asked to please donate their services for the day to help the people of Lapeer County.

Also, any organization that provides services to people in our community that would like to have a table at our event are encouraged to attend.

Volunteers are also need-ed the day of the event to help escort folks to the proper service providers, assist at the registration table, help people with filling out information and a wide variety of other opportunities to serve. If you would like to volunteer, please contact me at the Lapeer United Way Housing Resource Center at 810-664-0255.

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