Over half of Detroit’s homeless are at risk of dying on the streets from freezing cold or violence—a far greater percentage than in any other US city. Interviews conducted via Common Ground’s 100,000Homeless Campaign revealed that:
Almost half of the Detroit homeless struggle with mental illness and substance abuse; 13% were veterans and 15% had grown up in the foster care system. Out of the 211 people interviewed, there have been 358 hospitalizations in the last year and 456 emergency room visits in three months. One hundred and three of these people (49%) do not have insurance, 74 people (345%) have been in prison and 149 (70.1%) have been in jail.
A recent year-long investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan found that Detroit police officers have been forcibly relocating homeless people (particularly from the popular Greektown tourist district) to locations miles away and dumping them there.
ACLU attorney Sarah Mehta said:
DPD’s practice of essentially kidnapping homeless people and abandoning them miles away from the neighborhoods they know–with no means for a safe return–is inhumane, callous and illegal.
The city’s desire to hide painful reminders of our economic struggles cannot justify discriminating against the poor, banishing them from their city, and endangering their lives. A person who has lost his home has not lost his right to be treated with dignity.
In some cases, officers confiscated any money their victims had, forcing them to walk miles to get back to downtown Detroit, where most shelters are located. The ACLU’s complaint alleges violations of constitutional rights including the right to due process and the right to not suffer unreasonable search and seizure.
Currently, Detroit is on the verge of bankruptcy. At any point in time, Greater Detroit has 13,000 to 14,000 homeless citizens—60% of them with children.
Many organizations are working to reduce Detroit homelessness and eliminate its related dangers and problems. A coalition of these public and private groups, including Homeless Action Network of Detroit, Wayne County Department of Human Services and Detroit/Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency, conducted a two-year study which resulted in the report “Moving Forward Together: A 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.”
In the past year there have been some successes: an increase in the availability of permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless, a strengthened Homeless Management Information System and improved capacity of the Continuum of Care. Moreover, considerable work has been done to improve relationships and collaboration between anti-homelessness groups.
The 10-Year plan has seven key goals:
1) Provide safe, affordable, supportive and long-term housing solutions for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless—reducing the time they must spend in emergency shelters.
2) Prevent homelessness by strengthening and expanding resources and services that allow people to remain in their own homes or to quickly access housing when faced with a housing crisis.
3) Strengthen the infrastructure of supportive services and community resources for people who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless to assist them with accessing housing and maintaining residential stability.
4) Build a political agenda and public will to end homelessness.
5) Provide better access to badly needed support services, such as healthcare, mental health, substance-abuse remediation, transportation, job training and placement, child care, education and food.
6) Increasing collaboration.
7) Finding new ways to better serve the chronically homeless—the 10% of all those without homes who currently consume the greatest percentage of services.
The report states:
We face many challenges—including our difficult economic times—that must be overcome if we are to be successful. These challenges are felt acutely by the nonprofit organizations that valiantly strive each day to meet the needs of the thousands of men, women, and children seeking their help.
“It will only be by all sectors—nonprofits, businesses, government, and individuals—working together that we will be successful in ending homelessness in our community.
Hopefully, the organizations will also put pressure on Detroit Police to stop kidnapping and forcibly relocating homes people.
Housing data and statistics: libguides.lib.msu.edu/content.php?pid=81596&sid=605565
More Detroit Homeless likely to be imprisoned once homelessness funding is cut: http://www.examiner.com/article/detroit-s-homeless-likely-to-end-up-prison
Report from the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness:
Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness: www.mihomeless.org