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Homeless count in Washtenaw County focuses on veterans and chronic homelessness

  |  February 2, 2015
From MLive

Greg Chase, a veteran who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, says he never experienced homelessness until two weeks ago.

After a falling out with his wife of 37 years, he said, he was left without a place to call home, and now he’s staying in shelters in Ann Arbor.

“Let’s just say I was blindsided and I didn’t know she was in a circumstance where I wasn’t going to be a part of her life anymore,” Chase said Wednesday morning after eating a free hot breakfast at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor.

Chase said he’s still struggling to make sense of everything. He said he’s always been the kind of person who helps others.

“And now I’m on the other side of the coin,” he said. “There are so many avenues right now, I don’t know which direction to go.”

Chase is one of the many people who were counted on Wednesday as part of a coordinated effort to conduct a census of Washtenaw County’s homeless population, the first comprehensive point-in-time count the county has done in two years.

Dozens of volunteers and outreach workers fanned out across Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and other parts of the county to seek out every homeless person they could find, including visits to congregate meal sites, outdoor camp locations, warming centers, shelters, libraries, transit centers and other places where the homeless hang out. One of the questions they were asked was where they stayed Tuesday night.

Chase, who has lived in Ann Arbor on and off since the late 1960s, is temporarily taking advantage of an overnight shelter program run by the Delonis Center, which rotates around to different churches through the winter.

He said his focus is on getting back to work and finding stable housing, but he has some nagging disabilities.

“I can’t do the work that I’ve been doing for the last 20 or 30 years, which is home repair, remodeling, electricity, plumbing and graffiti removal,” he said.

A major focus of this year’s point-in-time count is ending chronic homelessness and homelessness among veterans, said Andrea Plevek, human services manager for the county’s Office of Community and Economic Development.

That’s the mission of Zero: 2016, a national campaign in which Washtenaw County is participating.

Plevek said Zero: 2016 is a follow-on to the successful 100,000 Homes campaign supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Community Solutions, a national nonprofit based in New York City.

“It’s really about using proven best practices to house those with the highest needs and the most acute homelessness situation, and they were successful,” she said. “In four years, 105,000 of the most chronically homeless individuals and families, and also veterans, were housed, and many remain in successful housing situations.”