Housing the unhoused: A crisis spurs ingenuity

Housing advocates are promoting housing-first models for getting homeless people into shelters fast.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a homelessness crisis that has seen hundreds of Kalamazoo residents forced from their homes with no place to go.

It has also prompted renewed efforts to address homelessness in the county – one focused on getting the unhoused into living spaces before attempting to address other problems they may have.

By its last count, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that as many as 700 people were unhoused at some point during 2019. That number likely spiked in the last year as the pandemic caused economic chaos throughout the country – though hard data is scarce.

And the problem may be even worse than even those meager estimates. Stephanie Hoffman is the Executive Director of Open Doors, a homeless advocacy organization.

“That number doesn’t include people that are couch surfing, staying with grandma, staying with aunt and uncle, staying in a hotel,” Hoffman said in an interview with Public Media Network. “So that number is not accurate at all.”

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The sheer scope of the problem prompted several Kalamazoo groups to buy and renovate an old hotel to provide living space for unhoused residents. That emergency housing program is coming to an end, but the problem persists.

You can read the full story on PMN.

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