'Tis the season for time with family, friends, and loved ones. It is a shared time of year in which the most fortunate among us feast together and then lay our full bellies and contented hearts to comfortably rest in the warmth of our homes. There are too many among us that don't experience the holidays, or any days, in that way.
We are, of course, speaking of the homeless. Washtenaw County is no different than most counties around the country. Finding solutions to chronic homelessness and veterans' homelessness remains a sizable issue.
In 2013, for instance, more than 4,400 people in Washtenaw County required services because of a lack of of permanent housing. That's just the number served, not the total homeless. Since that time, county officials have been working to reduce and eliminate the barriers to finding appropriate housing for those in need.
Andrea Plevek is director of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development. She says, through its "Zero 2016" campaign, Washtenaw County has made progress.
"We have housed 282 veterans who have experienced homelessness and 237 individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness since the beginning of the campaign."
That's more than 500 people. But, there is obviously a long way to go. Plevek says there is a huge barrier to more fully ending homelessness in Washtenaw County.
"We can't reduce the number of individuals entering our system if we don't have sufficient housing stock to exit individuals from the system."
As such, Washtenaw County has announced it will continue participation in the national "Built for Zero" campaign. That will help the county leverage more local, state, and federal funding to find and pay for the needed housing to help those still in need.