By Mike Kruzman /

November is National Homeless Awareness Month and the Livingston County Homeless Continuum of Care is holding a campaign to help people understand that “Home is Essential” for everyone.

The Continuum has kicked off their four-week social media campaign in which they are sharing posts related to a variety of topics that will bring awareness to the problem of homelessness locally and ways the community can help. This week’s focus is on “where to go for immediate shelter needs.” Next week (11/8) will feature “essential programs to achieve housing." On November 15th read about “a special focus on populations affected by homelessness. Then on November 22nd, the focus will be on “community supports to maintain housing.”

Community Collaborative Planner Amy Johnston said on Wednesday, November 17th at Noon, the Continuum is hosting an event at the Historic Howell Courthouse for their community awareness day. They are looking for 111 people that purchased one of their awareness-raising t-shirts this year or last to come out in support. One-hundred-and-eleven represents the number of Livingston County residents on any given day of the year that are homeless. Naturally, if more than their target number shows up, then all the better, and if you don’t have a fundraiser t-shirt, Johnston says then wear something purple, which is the color of Homeless Awareness Month. She also asks people to tag pictures on their social media with @homelessccc and #endhomelessnesslivco.

One of the agencies the Continuum works with is Community Catalysts, a non-profit based in Howell. Eileen Zilch is the Executive Director and President and said that their goal is to not only help solve the homeless problem, but to also help provide for people who are working and have a place to live, but find their housing costs burdensome. Community Catalysts bills itself as an organization that "supports seniors, veterans, homeless and other low income people by funding and developing quality affordable housing and services. Our goal is to be the catalyst - to get a stalled project started, to fill a gap to keep a project going, to fund a project that others may not be willing to fund, or work with a developer/partner in a way that others will not."

Zilch said there simply are not enough housing units for people making under $50,000 and said that if there were, it might help with employment shortages as lower-wage workers may prefer to work closer to where they live. Community Catalysts this past year was donated land and was able to rehabilitate 2 apartments which they rent to veterans at an affordable price.

Scott Richardson is the Associate Director for Housing at Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency. He says that homelessness in Livingston County can look a few different ways, and it isn’t always the typical “sleeping on a park bench-type.” Richardson says that more often than not, its people doubled up, staying with friends or family, living in their car, or even using businesses that are open for 24-hours for a few hours at a time. Many times, he says, people do everything they can to avoid looking homeless because of the stigma and societal views. They aim to keep people in homes when they can, because, as Richardson says, it can be more costly to get someone back into housing once they are out of it.

To hear more from Johnston, Zilch and Richardson, tune in to WHMI’s Viewpoint, this Sunday morning at 8:30.