[Hpn] Research focuses on needy, homeless;Oakland Press;Michigan;11/12/01
Morgan W. Brown
Tue, 13 Nov 2001 16:09:34 -0500
Monday, November 12, 2001
Oakland Press <http://www.zwire.com/site/news.asp?brd=982>
[Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan]
Research focuses on needy, homeless
By DAVE GROVES, Of The Oakland Press November 12, 2001
A recently completed national study is expected to yield surprising
information about need in Oakland County, local agency leaders said. The
community will have to wait to learn more, however.
Data contained in the study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.,
have been embargoed until Wednesday. The national study will provide local
data for Oakland County and its human service agencies, some of which will
hold local news conferences.
The study's release coincides with National Homelessness Awareness Week,
Nov. 11 to 17, an educational campaign sponsored by the National Coalition
for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and
Homelessness Awareness Week couldn't have come at a better time, say a
number of local human service advocates.
"There continues to be a severe problem with homelessness in Oakland
County," said Kathleen Carolin, spokeswoman for the Food Bank of Oakland
"We only have one homeless shelter in Pontiac that accepts both men and
women, then we have one women's shelter and one that handles the mentally
ill. Generally, they're all running at capacity."
Pinning down accurate numbers of homeless people at the local, state and
national levels presents a formidable challenge for researchers, but
anecdotal accounts indicate Oakland County - the second wealthiest county in
the nation - is far from without a problem.
Sylvia Wheeling, food service manager for the Baldwin Center in Pontiac,
said a large portion of demand for meals there comes from the homeless.
"I think its a big problem. Any time you can feed 300 people per day from
one area, I think that's a lot. In summer when the children are out of
school, that will easily go up to 400 people," she said.
Carolin said that a large portion of the county's homeless population is
mentally ill, a phenomenon that can be traced to the 1997 closing of Clinton
Valley Center, a hospital for the mentally ill.
While many homeless people live in urban areas such as Pontiac and the
southeastern section of the county, still others live in tents and lean-tos
in more rural areas.
Wheeling said the county's current level of need for food and housing is
high, given the nation's economic slow down, falling contributions to local
charities since Sept. 11 and traditionally limited human services funding at
"I think people need to be aware of what's happening right here and that we
really need their support," she said.
Carolin said that no matter what the cause of homelessness, society needs to
do more to address the problem.
"Everyone deserves to eat, to be warm, to have a roof over their head and to
be safe. And children should never have to experience this," she said.
"If there are one or two people who have to sleep outside, that's one or two
too many. We have to treat these people like we would treat ourselves or our
Capt. K. Kendall Mathews, Salvation Army divisional secretary for
southeastern Michigan, agreed.
"These are people, too, and we need to look at them not as homeless, but
people who are working through some very difficult situations such as mental
illness. They need our help," he said.
"These are people who have potential. These are people who with one
opportunity could possibly turn their lives around."
Helen Kozlowski, executive director of the Food Bank of Oakland County,
which provides food for local human service agencies and pantries, said
people taking advantage of the programs are the working poor, children under
18 and senior citizens - most of whom have some form of housing.
Still, she said, mental illness, alcoholism, drug addictions, divorce,
relationship problems and other factors have forced many residents onto the
Kozlowski spoke of a homeless man in Pontiac known as "Chief."
"He has a family, but he's an alcoholic, so he obviously can't function in
the real world because of his drinking problem," she said.
"He's a typical example of a person who has a sickness and can't overcome it
to provide for himself and his family."
Contributors to the homeless should consider conditions in which the
homeless live, Kozlowski said, noting that they don't have access to
conveniences such as can openers, microwave ovens and washing machines.
"If folks are going to donate they should remember the homeless and donate
items that are easy to open and ready to eat," she explained.
Kozlowski added that donations of warm socks, shoes, boots, pants and coats
are always needed at this time of year.
Mathews added, "Homeless people and disenfranchised people will always be
with us. If people want to donate their time, their talents or their gifts
to help the homeless, the Salvation Army is always willing to accept that."
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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