Organizations urge Gov. Whitmer to prioritize homelessness in COVID-19 Response

Michigan had over 65,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in 2018, with approximately half of that population being adults and children in families. A recent national study attempting to model the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless population predicts that when compared to the general population, individuals experiencing homelessness are twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to require critical care, and two to three times as likely to die.

On Monday, over 80 Michigan organizations that work with low-income and homeless individuals sent a letter to Governor Whitmer asking that her office:

  • Fund emergency housing resources to support individuals experiencing homelessness and prevent future homelessness – such as flexible funding to place individuals in hotels/motels, emergency rental and deposit assistance, and support for increased staffing capacity at homeless shelters.
  • Prioritize homeless shelters and street outreach workers as recipients of available resources including sanitizers, protective gear, disinfectant supplies, thermometers, masks and gloves and other essential items.
  • Provide guidance to local government and law enforcement that clearly exempts individuals living unsheltered in our communities from the penalties enacted under Executive Order 2020-21 (Stay Home, Stay Safe Order) and creates a moratorium on encampment sweeps and vehicle ticketing and impoundments.
  • Identify additional spaces for sheltering individuals experiencing homelessness – both for quarantine and for non-quarantined habitation.
  • Extend the moratorium on evictions and include utility shut-offs and foreclosures for a minimum of an additional 90 days.

“This is an unprecedented state emergency that is taxing our homeless response system,” stated Eric Hufnagel, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH). “Individuals and families experiencing homelessness are already extremely vulnerable during a public health crisis. Our response system is working overtime with very little resources to protect their clients and their staff. Just like our healthcare workers, shelter and outreach staff are on the front lines making sure that folks have the information and resources they need to be safe and healthy. We can, and should, do more to protect them and the individuals they serve.”

The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH) is a statewide, non-profit agency is dedicated to creating a sustainable, statewide voice and the infrastructure and systemic change needed to empower communities to end homelessness. For more information about MCAH, please visit www.mihomeless.org. For the full text of the letter and list of signatories, please visit https://mihomeless.org/index.php/2020/03/30/we-must-prioritize-homelessness-in-michigans-covid-19-response/.

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