SIREN/Eaton Shelter houses more than 100 people; 25 to 28 families on a typical night. Close to two thirds of those housed are young children seeking shelter with their parents. Approximately forty percent (40%) of the people housed at SIREN are women and children who are homeless because they are fleeing family violence.
Homelessness affects every community in Michigan, all age groups, all racial and ethnic groups, single people, and families with children. The face of homelessness in Eaton County and throughout many parts of the state is different than the stereotype many people have of the homeless. The rural homeless are most commonly parents with children, although there are some disabled singles and people with chronic substance abuse problems as well.
Studies show that between 35-40 percent of people experiencing homelessness nationwide are families with children. Children are the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness. Today, the average age of a homeless person in this country in nine years old. (Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness website, www.mihomeless.org)
Statewide, more than 750 providers of shelter and services offer help to homeless individuals and families. Tens of thousands of people sleep in emergency shelters in Michigan each night, and many others take refuge in cars, campsites, abandoned buildings, and other places unsuitable for humans to reside. As a result, an accurate number of homeless people in Michigan is hard to obtain.
Unfortunately, once the shelter is full, SIREN must turn away some of the requests for help. An average of eight to ten additional families call in daily to request emergency housing. The SIREN staff works hard to link these families to other shelters in the area when we are unable to help.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm has called upon Michigan citizens from all walks of life to volunteer or make a donation to one of the local programs working to help solve the problems faced by homeless people. At the same time, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Michigan Department of Human Services, and the Michigan Department of Community health are working toward long-term solutions to this complex problem.
For more information and data about homelessness in Michigan, please see the website for the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.