Local agencies and advocates are spreading the word about homelessness in Livingston County with a variety of events aimed at encouraging a community conversation and plan of action.

The Livingston County Homeless Continuum of Care Committee (HCCC) is drawing attention to Homeless Awareness Week, which began November 10th and runs through Sunday. The week’s main event was held at the Howell Opera House Wednesday and featured a display of local students’ artwork depicting the many faces and aspects of homelessness. This year’s theme is “I Need a Hero”, calling on community members and organizations to come together in working to find solutions that will mitigate and eventually eradicate homelessness.

Pam Dahlmann, HCCC Housing Resource Specialist, feels Livingston County is missing a key component that many other communities have: a year-round homeless shelter. Dahlmann feels the shelter doesn't necessarily need to serve in a long-term capacity, but instead provide housing during the interim periods in which an individual is working to transition and make next steps. Dahlmann's daughter Julie agreed, adding that there is a need for a shelter that serves everyone. Julie says, "...it doesn't matter whether you're a veteran, a male, female, child, it doesn't matter your circumstances, they're willing to help you. That's just something I'd love to see."

Livingston County does offer numerous resources that include homeless programs and services, which was noted by several individuals who spoke at Wednesday’s event as they shared their story of becoming homeless and how those resources helped them get back on their feet. Kelly Bolling was homeless for ten years before she says she knew about any of the resources that ultimately helped her overcome homelessness. She encourages the community to learn more about them and to reach out to those who may be "surviving" homelessness adding, “Just because you're homeless doesn’t mean that’s the end of your story. It could be the beginning, starting over." Several guests at the event noted they preferred the term “surviving” homelessness over “experiencing” it to highlight just how difficult it can be.

100% of the donations made at Wednesday’s event will go to homeless programs and services for Livingston County residents. Last year’s event raised $720.20, which supplied three families with an additional week of shelter, as well as covering Housing Application fees. The HCCC is holding other events throughout the remainder of Homeless Awareness Week, including a kids’ Paint and Pour fundraiser on Sunday in Brighton and a screening of a documentary about homelessness at the Historic Howell Movie Theater on Friday, at 7pm. (DK)