Saturday, February 4, 2017

Do Not Ask "The Elected Ones" About Detroit Homeless Kids

Do Not Ask "The Elected Ones" About Detroit Homeless Kids

Ricky Holland, Michigan's homeless poster child.
I remember some years ago when a friend, who used to sit on the Board of  Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Agency, would tell me about the homeless population of Detroit.

It was quite an interesting backstory, to say the least.

She called these groups of kids, "families".

These families consisted of groups of children, about ten at a time, who would live in abandoned residential and commercial properties.

Them, the term on the streets for some of these living conditions are called "trap houses" or just "laying up" with friends, family, or anyone with an empty couch.

The kids would live in groups as a form of protection and were quite organized.

The older kids bring back food and supplies for the young.

These families were even quite sophisticated to take a child who needed medical attention to emergency and quickly spirit the child away once triage had been done, long before Child Protective Services would come in.

My friend used to take rough counts and estimate that there were at least 5,000 children living on the streets.

So, why do these children live on the streets?

Simple, they did not want to go into foster care because these kids know that the child welfare system in Michigan that it is a living hell hole of glorified human trafficking, most notably in the name of God.

Actually, these kids, typically, when they reach the age of maturity, will turn to prostitution and drugs, including the boys, as a form of survival.

Channel 4, would fly its helicopter over the parking structure to drop socks and gloves to the kids for Christmas.

These kids will then have kids of their own, to create their own family, or rather their own world as a momentary form of comfort.

Many homeless children live with their homeless parent, typically the "working-class" poor mother receiving supplemental social assistance of SNAP and Medicaid, for fear of having their child snatched by CPS.

Many homeless children live with their families in homes of some degree of consanguinity or affinity in fear of the social stigma of "asking the state for help", of which there is very little left.

Everyone knew of these kids, even the State, yet, there still, to this day, remains an eerie silence amongst the glitzy fundraisers of "The Elected Ones" when it comes to child poverty.

Poverty is not a fashionable talking point, you know.  It clashes with those gloriously sought
Sherrie Gay Dagnogo & Hillary Clinton
after photo-ops.

Besides, "The Elected Ones" need to survive, too, you know.

The main reason there are so many kids on the streets in Detroit is due to the fact that economic demographics have changed downtown, so when there is a major event like the Auto Show, they would come in town to beg for money, and will make a sweet hustle off the guilt of those who struggle to care for anything else other than their businesses.

And "The Elected Ones" did nothing to address why people with children are homeless and why the poor cannot get a home.

Gotta keep those campaign funds rolling in.

These kids come from all over the state, the nation, and the world.

Other kids will be swept up in human trafficking rings to be taken to other cities.

Oh, and for those who will blame the parents for being poor, just remember, poverty is a crime and it is called "abuse and neglect" for failure to provide for the necessary needs of the child.

Besides, once a kid runs away, or ages out, of foster care, they can never go back home because that is another crime on parental rights have been terminated.

So, the moral of the story is:

Do not ask "The Elected Ones" about child poverty and homelessness in Detroit because it may just ruin their political campaign fundraising selfies.

Nation's annual homeless count reveals some surprises in Detroit

A cheery guy at the freeway ramp smiled as he held up a sign, “PLEASE HELP — God Bless You,” and said he had no home.

Yet, he didn’t qualify as “homeless,” according to the federal government.

In contrast, a fellow looked weary and weather-beaten in a hospital waiting room, sprawled in a chair. Security guards said  the man is there every night. And he, the feds say, is homeless.

Those were lessons learned late Wednesday night when the Free Press joined the annual Point-In-Time Count of homeless Americans — a unique census taken on one night each year that covers the entire state and nation.

Thousands of social workers, staffers from agencies that advocate for homeless people, college students and volunteers fan out to get this count of homeless people, including those in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, according to Point-In-Time leaders in Detroit.

The army of counters find their targets in shelters, in cars parked outside all-night supermarkets, in sleeping bags tucked in church doorways, and just trudging through the darkness hour after hour, said Tasha Gray, executive director of HAND — the Homeless Action Network of Detroit.

“What we don’t do is go into abandoned buildings” because of potential hazards, Gray said. That means the total is inevitably an under-count. Despite that shortcoming, completing the Point-In-Time Count is crucial to the budgets of most agencies for homeless people; they must participate to receive federal grants in the coming year, Gray said.

On Wednesday night at about 11 p.m., near Detroit’s northwest border, a guy standing beside the Lodge Freeway held a sign and said, “I just need $18 more and I can stay at that motel over there.”  He said his name was Bobby. Last name? “Bobby.”

“I guess he’s Bobby Bobby,” quipped Point-In-Time Count team leader Alexis Alexander, as she drove away. “For the purposes of our count tonight, he does not count because he’s paying for his motel. He’s not homeless, according to our guidelines. It’s a very fine line” between technically homeless and technically not, she said.

By day, Alexander is an administrator with HAND, she said. That's the umbrella group that links 36 agencies in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. It works to streamline agency efforts and avoid duplication of services. HAND oversees the Point-In-Time Count in Detroit, giving training to those who help, and gathering the hats, gloves, scarves and box lunches for them to give to the many street people who refuse offers of a ride to a warm homeless shelter.

At HAND, Alexander said she feeds data into the network's big computer system, which links three dozen homeless agencies in Wayne County. HAND and its computers are part of a sweeping, nationwide requirement that homeless programs adopt uniform oversight and matching software — namely, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's HMIS, or Homeless Management Information System. Those top-down rules from HUD were part of the big, historic and bipartisan push during the Obama administration called Open Doors, aimed at reducing homelessness everywhere, especially among military veterans, said Eric Hufnagel, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness in Lansing.

Two miles from the Lodge where Bobby stood, the waiting room of Sinai-Grace Hospital was another story. While Alexander waited in her car, a Point-In-Time volunteer flashed a smile at security guards and asked for a look around. The volunteer was Anirudha Rathnam, a fourth-year medical student at Wayne State University who is active in a school group called Street Medicine Detroit, she said. A guard scanned the room.

“That lady in the red hat? She’s here every night,” he said, adding: “Yes, all night. I know for a fact, her relative kicks her out every night.” Turning, he went on. “The one in the third seat? He’s here every night, too — all night.”

Ms. Red Hat just then had disappeared. So Rathnam strolled toward the man and sat down a seat away. She pulled out a clipboard bearing the 2017 Point-in-Time survey. He was drowsy, sprawled with his feet straight out, one boot off. On the floor, a container said Quaker Grits. He opened his eyes and began answering HUD’s battery of queries. His name was Carl.

“The last time you had a permanent place to sleep — do you remember when it was?” Yes, he did — a year ago.

“How did this start for you?” People at the hotel put him out.

“Would you like us to take you to a shelter tonight?” No, Carl liked it right where he was.

“I’m OK here. The hospital lets me stay,” he said. He’d been there four months, he said. Just then, a security boss interrupted. Rathnam would have to leave. The hospital had received no “prior notification” of the Point-In-Time visit, he said.

Referring to Carl, Rathnam asked, “Can I run outside and get him a snack bag?”

Sorry, "there’s no eating in the lobby — sign right there,” the supervisor said, pointing to a plastic placard on a pillar just steps away. Still, Carl mumbled that he'd like a snack bag. Rathnam brightened, suggesting that he bundle up, step outside and get one.

Once outside, he said his full name was Carl Ellison, that he was 58 and that 20 years ago, “I had a good job, new-car prep” at a dealership on Woodward, across from Detroit’s Palmer Park.

So, what happened? “They let me go,” was all he said, before accepting the snack bag plus a bonus package of more food from Rathnam.

Back in the car and cruising away, Rathnam said her experience at several hospitals taught her that it wasn’t unusual for homeless people to seek lodging there.

“People just come in and really don’t have a health problem. The hospitals let them stay until they get over their hangover or whatever,” she said.

So, how often do homeless people take up long-term residence in hospital waiting rooms? It was hard to say, she admitted.

“It’s one of my life goals to set up shelters for them near hospitals,” Rathnam said from the front seat, as team leader Alexander drove through northwest Detroit. Historically, most of Detroit’s homeless population was concentrated in the city's downtown, Alexander said. Lately, though, some have headed north.

Although this year’s Point-In-Time results won’t be released for several weeks, last year’s count by HAND — in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park — found there were 193 “unsheltered persons” living on the streets, in cars or at others places not meant for human habitation, and 2,142 sheltered but technically homeless people who were living in public shelters, transitional housing or other “safe havens” for homeless people, according to HAND’s data.

These numbers “represent a snapshot” taken of Detroit’s homeless problem on the night of last year’s count, Gray said.

“We see a far greater number of homeless individuals on an annual basis. For instance, over the course of 2015, 16,040 people were homeless” in HAND’s service area, based on how many requested shelter, Gray said.

“Both the nightly and annual numbers are correct. They just present different perspectives” of homelessness, she said.

“As we started seeing more investment downtown, with more private security firms, we’re seeing some people moving out to other areas,” including the Midtown area north of downtown, she said.
Mile after mile Alexander drove, up and down Grand River and Lahser and the mile roads, around parks shrouded in darkness, while she and Rathnam scanned alleys and doorways and woodlands for signs of anyone braving the cold. They wound up their count at close to 2 a.m. That's when Alexander summed up the night's work as well as, evidently, the bigger picture:

“Detroit’s a huge city. There really are probably homeless folks almost everywhere. ... In some places, it's hard to find them.”

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