Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a proclamation on Monday announcing that November is “Homeless Awareness Month” for Michigan.
More than 65,000 Michigan citizens were homeless last year, including 11,317 households with children according to government resources. The number of seniors ages 55 or older experiencing homelessness increased by five percent from 2016 to 2018, reaching nearly 8,500.
“I am a proud life-long Michigander who is dedicated to making this state a great place to live for everyone,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Right now, Michigan has far too many people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”
Whitmer’s proclamation also recognized a number of homelessness advocate organizations, including the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, as well as the Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Michigan Homeless Policy Council.
However, the number of homeless children could be even higher than what is reported through the state’s shelter system, according to one source.
Under the broader educational definition of homelessness, the number of homeless children under age 4 in Michigan has climbed to 15,565, says a study published by the Michigan League for Public Policy and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan earlier this year. Counties with the highest percentage of young children who are homeless are rural, although 75 percent of all children experiencing homelessness live in urban areas.
Homelessness can have lasting educational impacts, including slowed developmental growth, the study says. More than half of preschool-aged children who experience homelessness have a major developmental delay, compared to just 16 percent of similarly aged children who are not homeless.
The study also found that nearly half of all children who were homeless were chronically absent last school year.
“Crucial brain development takes place between birth and age 4, and kids who experience the trauma of homelessness face obstacles to their own physical and emotional growth,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count project director for the Michigan League for Public Policy. “These kids are so little, and we should be doing everything we can to help them and their families to thrive.”
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and the Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]