Homelessness is a nondiscriminatory event. The average family is three paychecks away from homelessness. One major crisis, such as the need for an expensive car repair, can financially ruin a low-income family, forcing them out into the street.
For the people who can’t avoid this fate, there is help available to get them back on their feet and an abundance of people willing to lend a hand.
Located at 312 W. Huron St., the Robert J. Delonis Center serves the largest percentage of those experiencing homelessness in Washtenaw County.
“We see a lot of people who are homeless for the first time,” said Ellen Schulmeister, Executive Director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County.
Schulmeister said the center sees a lot of people who are homeless for the first time.
She explained that many have barriers to overcome, such as being unemployed because of a low skill level, leading to a hard time finding employment.
She added that some may have a mental issue or substance abuse problem.
Helping them get through homelessness, the Delonis Center offers services such as providing emergency shelter, referrals for substance abuse treatment, clothing vouchers, transportation, food, health care, housing assistance and money management.
Many University students volunteer their time to help with these programs so the residents can get back on their feet.
“There are no throwaway people. Every person that is homeless is someone’s mother, father, child or grandparent. They are a member of a family and a member of the community. Together, we should find ways to help them. Every person on earth deserves a place to stay,” Schulmeister said.
Looking at the statistics
In Washtenaw County 2,756 people will experience homelessness within a year, with 41 people becoming homeless any given week, according to www.ahomeforeveryone.org. Not all of these people will spend time in a shelter and are forced to live out in the streets.
The lack of affordable housing is a serious issue for those in low-income circumstances. According to the website, the average yearly income for homeless people is $9,500 — which does not cover the average yearly rent on a two bedroom apartment in Washtenaw County.
Adam Berge, an LSA junior, said homelessness is a major issue that a lot of people don’t recognize.
“People should be willing to help out the homeless more,” Berge said. “Subtle ways, like saying ‘hi’ and treating them with more respect would help … They might not have the money, but they are human beings and should be treated with respect.”
Service is one option available to those who are interested in helping. There are many organizations in Ann Arbor working to help rectify the problem of homelessness. One organization, Time for Tots, provides therapeutic respite daycare for homeless children, ages two months to five years.
Jennifer D’Souza, an LSA junior, has spent time with some homeless people out on the street. She said that every so often, she would allot time out of her day to take them out to lunch and listen to what they have to say. Because of this experience, D’Souza said she has gained a more in-depth perspective of their lives.
“It would be nice if everyone could see them as one of us,” she said.
“We don’t see them in that way because we are too busy living our own lives, not taking the time to understand what they have to go through. Most of the time, it is more than food that they want. They want someone to talk to.”
Despite the fact that these people are living have been forced out on the street, their humility remains.
She said that there are some common misconceptions about homeless people.
“I don’t think these people choose to be out on the street. Homelessness could happen to any of us.”