Report: Homelessness in Michigan dropped 19% in 2020

By: - October 22, 2021 12:02 pm

‘Big Red’ of Detroit arrives on Friday at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in downtown Detroit. The church operates a warming center for homeless residents. | Ken Coleman

Homelessness in Michigan dropped 19% in 2020 from 2019, according to a new report.

“Ending Homelessness in Michigan” was created in collaboration with several state government departments and agencies. It outlines a combination of factors contributing to 2020’s reduction in homelessness, including the implementation of eviction moratoriums. It also highlights the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s (MSHDA) Eviction Diversion Program, which has provided rental relief to renters across the state impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, statewide stay-at-home orders, and people choosing to stay with family or friends rather than seeking professional support services.

“While we want to celebrate the fact homelessness decreased significantly in 2020, we are also mindful that we still have significant work to do to provide every Michigander with easy access to safe, affordable housing,” said Eric Hufnagel, executive director for Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.

Despite the overall decline in homelessness, however, the report points to “high levels of racial disparity in the homeless population.” Black residents made up 46% of the homeless population in 2020 but only account for 14% of Michigan’s total population. Black and Hispanic workers were also more likely to be unemployed during 2020, and Black and Hispanic renters had higher levels of uncertainty about their ability to pay rent.

The need for affordable housing was exacerbated by the pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has addressed the need for affordable housing through the MI New Economy Plan, with a goal of 75,000 new or rehabilitated housing units in five years across the state (FY 2022 to FY 2026). The plan is designed to expand access to affordable and attainable housing, create good-paying jobs and support the development of thriving communities.

“In 2020, amidst a once-in-a-century crisis, homelessness decreased by 19% because of an array of resources we provided to keep people in their homes including an eviction moratorium and rental relief,” said Whitmer. “Now, with a $3.5 billion surplus and billions more in federal funds, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle some of the big underlying challenges we face to help people thrive.”

The state launched its 2020-22 Action Plan on Ending Homelessness last year to address issues like increasing access to affordable housing, the need for more prevention efforts to end homelessness, and the need to make the state’s homeless response system more just and equitable.

The four main strategies for accomplishing these goals include:

  • Increasing access to affordable and attainable housing for all Michiganders.
  •  Using cross-sector collaboration to impact factors that lead to housing insecurity.
  •  Enhancing the homeless service delivery system to better serve those in need.
  •  Increasing prevention and diversion efforts to mitigate the risk of becoming homeless.

“The findings from the Ending Homelessness in Michigan report continue to reinforce that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to these complex issues,” said Kelly Rose, chief housing solutions officer for MSHDA and chair of the Michigan Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Truly bringing an end to homelessness will require collaborative efforts between government agencies, community leaders and other individuals and organizations invested in their communities to come up with creative, multifaceted solutions that address these needs head-on.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit.