A federal judge in Grand Rapids ruled that a Michigan law banning panhandling in public places violates the Constitution. The ruling was in response to a civil suit filed by two Grand Rapids men who were arrested in 2011 for begging, including James Speet, pictured above. / Michigan ACLU
KENT CO. Mich. (WZZM) - If it weren't for the extra bed and people to talk to at Mel Trotter Ministries, Candice would be in rough shape.
"I struggled with alcohol addiction, and I knew I needed some help to overcome that. I had been through some rough things in life and I just wasn't handling them very well."
But a lot of people who have been helped by Mel Trotter have not asked for that help; they were offered it. Which is why it's important for all local shelter workers to hit the streets every January.
"We're going out under the bridges and under the hedges, looking for all of those who are technically homeless to get a more accurate head count for homelessness here in West Michigan, specifically in Kent County," said President and CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries, Rev. Chico Daniels.
Mel Trotter is a part of the Kent County Coalition for Homelessness, coordinating needs between many of the area's shelters.
"Counting is helping to keep us accountable as a community," said Rich Liberatore, Chairperson of the Coalition. This survey is important for the shelters to update their direction and find new solutions. For some, the census is also how they get federal funding. "There is a still a significant need to move people into permanent housing."
Even though many non-profit, mostly religious based shelters don't get this funding (like Mel Trotter), they still benefit from turning in these numbers. "But we try to function as a total group, together as a community system," continued Liberatore. Referring to other shelters when they need to, all for more people success stories, like Candice's.
The Coalition is still finalizing the tallies, but this is about what they expect the total number of homeless in Kent County, compared to years before.
2013: 650-720 (est.)
The Coalition believes the drop from 2009-2010 may have something to do with more low-income and rehabilitation apartments becoming available at that time.