Along Michigan’s back roads, thousands of homeless children

Brenda Greenhoe finds kids living in tents. She’s found them sleeping in ball field dugouts. Last summer, she found a young couple living in an abandoned garage.

That’s her job.

Greenhoe is in charge of finding and helping homeless students in Montcalm, Ionia, Isabella and Gratiot counties – four largely rural regions in central Michigan.

Last school year, she found 1,550.

“It’s a little less obvious when you drive around rural areas, because you don’t see them,” she said. “The poverty is here, but you have to drive on some pretty rough, back roads to find it. You’ll run across people who are sleeping in their vehicle on state land or in a tent.

“I see the poverty. It’s right here in my face every day.”

A flood of desperation

Fighting poverty is an urgent priority for Michigan residents across all demographic groups, according to the Center for Michigan’s recent report, “Michigan Speaks: The Citizen’s Agenda for the 2014 Elections,” based on polling and community conversations with more than 5,500 residents across the state. It’s easy to understand why: 1.6 million Michigan residents now live in poverty.

No wonder homelessness is on the rise, notably among children. Last year, Michigan was listed as having the nation’s fourth highest increase (42 percent) in student homelessness over the past decade. There are more than 31,000 homeless students in Michigan, according to most recent state estimates.

For Greenhoe, whose territory spans 2,400 miles, finding destitute children is dispiritingly easy. The four counties where she serves as a liaison for homeless students have child poverty rates ranging from 23 to 27 percent.

One county, Isabella, has the highest poverty rate in Michigan at 32.1 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Those figures, however, are likely inflated by the number of Central Michigan University students living in the area.

Even without counting college students, Isabella County’s poverty rate of 18 percent is higher than Michigan’s statewide average of 16.3 percent and the national average of 14.9 percent. The rate among the county’s 2,143 Native Americans is 27 percent, the Census Bureau found.

Isabella is one of 32 counties in Michigan that have concentrated pockets of poverty, defined as more than 30 percent of a neighborhood’s residents living below the poverty line, a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s National Kids Count Project found.

Only six states had more areas of concentrated poverty than Michigan, the report found, with child poverty skyrocketing 57 percent between 2000 to 2010. The 341,000 Michigan children living in these destitute areas are enough to fill every first-, second- and third-grade classroom in the state.

Low income, low expectations

Even rural counties, where low-income families are typically scattered, have pockets of poverty, including Alpena, Chippewa, Roscommon and Isabella. That matters because children growing up in low-income areas see little hope for success, said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“Children from poor neighborhoods, even if their own families are not in poverty, are affected,” she said. “They struggle more with behavior and emotional problems, they are less likely to graduate, and they have reduced potential to be economically successful as adults.”

If all a child sees is poverty and hopelessness, the likelihood of escaping is remote.

“The poverty is here, but you have to drive on some pretty rough, back roads to find it.” – Brenda Greenhoe, who searches for homeless children in central Michigan.

“Without hope, you’re dead in the water,” said Greenhoe, whose work is supported through a federal grant. “Your priorities are based on how you were raised and where you live. It affects everybody in the community. It’s more healthy to see normal families doing normal things.”

The homeless students Greenhoe helps are often not just living in tents and abandoned garages. Under federal law, students are considered homeless if they are moving from couch to couch in one home or another, or otherwise have no stable, long-term housing. Some have run away or been kicked out of their homes.

The young couple she found in an abandoned garage last summer spent their days in a park, then returned to the garage at night. Greenhoe got them back in school and helped them find safer housing.

Beyond seeing to homeless families’ physical needs, Greenhoe said her greatest challenge is helping “children see and believe that they have a future and that they have hope and to see that they can do what they believe is impossible,” Greenhoe said.

“The first question I always ask is, ‘What is your hope for the future? What are your hopes for your kids?’” she said. “I ask them that, and I get this blank stare.

“One woman burst into tears, and she said, ‘Nobody’s ever asked me that.’”

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Amanda Wright
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 11:33am
How does someone get involved in something like this? I would love to help but don't know where to start.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 12:56pm
Pat and Brenda, I understand this might be the result of the law that makes education mandatory till 18 years, thus the reference to college students and couples. I assume you are being paid by the school districts to increase their cash flow. If any of these students fall outside this definition, please advise. I understand you seeking out the homeless, and thus are actually a Bounty Hunter, not a Truant Officer. A Truant Officer would be seeking students that had missed a few classes. I still maintain that education should prepare students for work and to prepare them to be employees or business owners. When this is done ineffectively, we get dependence. Education should teach and result in self sufficiency, not dependance. Dependency and Bounty Hunters patrolling back-rods are a symptoms of failure.
Cathy Mueller
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 2:06pm
If she or any one else hired to find homeless families is doing it to increase a school district's cash flow, they would only work two days: one in February and a day in October. Any student that comes into a district between those days are not included in the count, this at the district's expense. Yes, Federal programs exist, but as they should exist, children shouldn't be living in tents or backseats of cars. Maybe your children enjoy it, but it's not healthy. Please get out of your self engineered turret and see the word as it is.
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 5:23pm
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 6:50pm
Cathy Mueller August 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm Another commenter, David Zeman, clarified the issue a little, I think. He said there is at least one federal and 50 coordinating state programs using a program called the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. This Act provides federal money to the federal government, states and schools for infrastructure to implement its provisions and provides for grant money to assist the homeless including illegals. It looks like it would apply to the 65,000 illegal immigrant children that came across the Mexican border in the last few weeks. 'The term homeless children and youths' — (A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of section 103(a)(1)); and (B) includes ...(iv) migratory children.' I do not agree with your assessment 'they would only work two days'. The author says, 1,550 kids/year. I understand the value to the school system would be 10 to 15 thousand each, or 15.5 - 23.25 million dollars in state funds. That does not include her salary or other program costs at the school or the grants to the kids or the other community services employed; like the police for transport, child services for homes, etc. If these were illegals, that would be a total drain on the community of 20 to 30 million dollars for no benefit to the economy of the community. Do you agree this would not be the right thing to do? As far as the federal government funds to program, they borrowed 1.4 trillion last year, so these are actually borrowed money. 'Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul' so to speak. 'Please get out of your self engineered turret and see the world as it is.' I assume you mean 'Ivory Tower?' I am a Professional Engineer in Michigan, but in 1990 in California when a business failed in another industry, my wife and family chose to volunteer to work at a boys ranch for a year (another son worked there for 12 years). I had seen young girls and boys on the corner of Hollywood and the 405 highway that were homeless. They were not wearing red dresses, they had jackets on and had one or two suitcases, just arrived. But they all were 'coming to Hollywood' and they all had their thumbs out. In the next ten minutes of their lives things, for them, would change forever. Some of these kids ended up at the boys ranch. Their choice was Juvenile Hall or the ranch? It is likely that I have far, far more knowledge of the actualities of this world than you. One boy that came to the ranch had broken his father-in-law's jaw the night before. He had a message shaved into the back of his head...'PIMP THIS.' Another boy had seven years of Kung Fu training. He got a headlock on and threw a volunteer down on a driveway made of crushed rock in a split second. The volunteer came up pretty bloody. The parents came the next day. I was the volunteer and I had to tell them the story. The owner of the ranch showed them the injuries. I know this world. I have lived it. Do you know what 'The Cheapest Apartment in Los Angeles' means? I have the sincerest respect for Ms Greenhoe. I know exactly what it would take, mentally and spiritually, to do what she does. My complaint is not with her personally. It with the Progressive Movement that takes all it can beg borrow and steal to increase the size of government influence, and decrease the influence of a free people, of individuals, families, communities and the states. If we both want to increase the well-being of these kids, then we might look at why are they there? I consider none are mentally ill. They, like the kids from Hollywood, made the best choice they had available at the time. If you asked each of them if they had a family somewhere, I think you would find more parents in this story, than this article informs us about. There would be a few 'broken jaws', to mend. But you alone could probably mend 100 families without to much strain. If you asked each of them about their last school, I think you will find a story like these two. You personally, just using this information alone, could return 100 of these kids to school by yourself without too much strain in year. A young man told me why he left school. I had told him about the importance of the student having a purpose, his own, purpose for what he is studying. He said, that was exactly the problem. He screamed at his teacher that school had no meaning for him, and he was so upset he left school directly. As he was leaving, with his back to his last teacher, the teacher happened to say, finally, you don't have any reason to stay, you have no purpose for learning History... He left the building. That night he reviewed the events of the day. He came to the point about having a purpose for learning History. So he asked himself, how could I apply this to my life? What use could I have for History? He finally realized, 'I like collecting antiques!' He now had a reason, he liked 'old things'. You could find a new one or revitalize a reason the student had at one time for learning. It might take a little practice to get it right. You might even find the students 'basic purpose'. This lights up the flame of every successful thing a person does in life. He has had it all his life. Everything he does that is not on this purpose will likely fail. Good luck. I tutored an eighth-grade girl on math. She had been failing for several years. Her mom and I went to her classroom and saw what was happening. I had her read out-loud to me. Each time she came to a word she did not know, we defined it. Each time she hesitated or stammered or changed a word, I asked for and found a word she did not know. Soon I noticed she did not know how to and did not understand 'multiplication.' So, as before, we defined that word. She was still kind of slow and having trouble so I found an earlier word, 'unit'. When we defined that word so she understood it, the whole subject came alive. She could learn the subject fast and was flying along. I went back up to 'multiplication' and she know understood that. She was flying too fast to follow so I ended off for the day. It had taken an hour and half. She started getting A's in school. I should have taught her how to find the words, and how to define them too. But her understanding of the subject and her willing to participate were back. Good luck.
Sun, 08/17/2014 - 11:03am
Your school funding figures are way off. The base is near 7300 or so; most between that and 8300. A few are 11k+ because they're "20J" districts - their residents a long while back voted to pay higher school taxes. For current figures look it up at
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sun, 08/17/2014 - 9:34pm
AKos August 17, 2014 at 11:03 am Hi, Did you add in anything from local property taxes? Things from the state general fund? For Michelle's school lunch program? and the state lotteries? Did you add in anything for Pat's salary? For her grants to people in need? Did you add anything for local patrons and booster clubs, athletic events, and bake sales? Did you add anything for interest received on financial investments, CDs and things? Did you add anything for Special Education, the various Disorders or Disabled revenues? The numbers might be a bit higher than you have been led to believe.
Terry Clingersmith
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 12:36am
Thank You Cathy!
Carol Pyke
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 2:19pm
Leon, I am sorry to know that there are people in this state and country who think like you do. People do not choose to be homeless unless they are mentally or emotionally ill. ( Sadly, there is no place for those folks to go either since we have a sorry mess for the mentally ill.) Anything the citizens of this state can do to help move the homeless into independence should be supported. Your comments are negative and offer no suggestions for solving this sad issue. Yes, education hopes to create citizens who can be productive members of society, but sadly, circumstances sometimes occur that destroy this possibility. Without the support of others it could happen to anyone. Families and friends often step in to help, but everyone is not blessed with such support. Let's help these people instead of criticizing them or blaming those who try to help calling them "bounty hunters." Shame on you!
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 3:21pm
Not all people who CHOOSE to be homeless are mentally or emotionally ill. I had a couple of young men come into my business this past weekend who were basically hobos. Traveling around the country with everything they own in a back pack, and loving it. The one had been doing this for two years (he is 22 now) and had visited 46 of the continental United States. They made the choice to be homeless, and were very nice people and very happy. I know at least one of them had family and said he sees them once or twice a year and keeps in touch with them on Facebook when they are in a town with a library and internet they can use.
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 9:20pm
And they are old enough to make that choice for themselves, not helpless children
Micheline Hellwege
Sat, 01/03/2015 - 9:26am
Roger August 12, 2014 at 3:21 pm The " Hobos" you mention two young people backpacking across the country as an adventure. I would bet they have a home to got back to once their adventure is done and family who would be there immediately with support, should it be necessary. This is not an equal comparison.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 9:41pm
Carol Pyke August 12, 2014 at 2:19 pm I disagree with your view that: 'People do not choose to be homeless unless they are mentally or emotionally ill.' I see a few other commenters here do as well. I don't agree with your implication that the homeless are insane. I don't think they are. I think they have met with some unfortunate circumstances that they haven't worked out of yet. 'Anything the citizens of this state can do to help move the homeless into independence should be supported.' Please explain to me exactly how you feel this program leads to 'independence.' I see it as leading to exactly the opposite, 'dependence.' I see federal intervention from 'homeless' back into 'hopeless.' Now if something is effectively done in all those millions, I apologize for that. Will you apologize for wasting millions to do a few good turns? It would be a far more effective use of resources to have local charities like churches, Kingsmen, YMCA, YWCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, businesses in the area. If these resources are continually bypassed and avoided, then they will have 'no purpose' and cease to exist. The basic point of the article is 'poverty.' Do you see any suggestions on how to handle that? Before WW I and WW II nearly all of American boys and girls lived on farms and worked nearly the same hours as their parents. They had a concept of 'work' and they took this value with them when the arrived at work in the military or the industrial marketplace. 'Work' is the central stabilizing influence in our society. If you were to interview these 1500 homeless students, I believe you would fine that they uniformly did not have a 'work ethic.' They do not know the value of a buck, and have never been taught that their value to society is what they bring to it. If they do not bring the values an employer or a marketplace require they will not be successfull. Just as education is not successful to that degree. I once, as a teacher, asked a student who was having trouble with Reading to give me three ways he could use Reading in life. This student was doing second-grade level work in math, in the tenth-grade. He had said, 'I hate Reading.' As an answer to my question he had a physical reaction, slapped his head, and had a huge realization, 'I could get a job!!!' No one in 11 years of public education had brought home to him a personal reason to learn Reading. So I am saying many of these 'homeless' are in fact failed students that are dropouts. They chose to leave school and much of their life because no one had brought home to them a personal reason to learn, or attend school. No one taught them the skill of acquiring a reason to learn. They could have been taught to ask themselves, 'How can I use this in life?' I invite you to ask 5 or 10 History classes what personal reason each of the students have at that point for learning about History. If they have no reason for being there education will make 'no sense' to them. It will be senseless. They will want to leave. They will not want to be there. If they have been taught that they do not need to listen to their parents and they display this 'value' with their parents, they may choose to 'be elsewhere.' Thanks for your comment to me.
Jesse Berry
Fri, 08/22/2014 - 2:50am
Mr Hulett, you seem to have the unbelievable ability to cure genetic problems, such as learning disabilities, and to simultaneously evoke life-changing epiphanies, in the unfortunate, all by delivering a single pithy question to those poor souls. May your god bless you, sir!
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Fri, 08/22/2014 - 9:31am
Jesse Berry August 22, 2014 at 2:50 am Thanks, but I make no such claims as that, and I don't think that is true. I read once, something to the effect, that any sufficiently advanced technology, may be viewed as 'magic' by those not aware of it. They may view any user of this technology as a sort of 'god.' Using a cigarette lighter in sub-Saharan Africa or landing a plane in a rain forest among primitive people might have them worshiping such a person. That is not my intent. An Engineering Trainee at one company stopped me in my tracks one day 30 years ago. He had been observing a string of these little 'miracles' like you said, and I said above. He said, 'Now don't get mad, Leon, we don't understand. You come in here like some kind of a 'god' or something, and notice things and do things. We have double and sometimes triple checked these test setups. You walk in and instantly see 'the part is upside down', 'the test procedure is the wrong one', 'we've used the wrong part', etc., etc. Don't get us wrong, we are not upset that you do this, thank goodness you do. What we can't understand is 'How you do it.' I said, 'Andy, you need a course on how to study.' He was dumbfounded. He said, 'A course on how to study, is going to give me those abilities?' I recommended him to a tutor that gave the course and he took it. He had troubles on the course, and wanted to quit. It was really tough for him, but finally I heard he made it through. I stopped by that company a year and half later, to do some consulting on a project. A senior Engineer showed me around the company to see the current state of the project, so I asked him about people I used to know as we walked along. Were they still around? When I asked about Andy, to my surprise, the Engineer described him in almost the same terms Andy had described me a year and half earlier. I had to smile to myself. He had learned 'my secret'. Anyone can learn to do these things. Anyone can have these abilities. It is not unique to me. You could do these things. Anyone in Michigan can have and do these things. Recently I taught an average public school fifth-grader some basic concepts; like 'ability', 'skill', and 'talent'. How to acquire an ability with 'a decision', more or less instantly. Then I had her demonstrate how she would do this in tougher and tougher situations. I had read about some math questions that were so tough, the First Year students, Freshmen at Cal Tech in the 1950's could not solve them. They are called, 'The Strong Problems.' There are 157 of them. I selected one that could be solved with Arithmetic, the kind of Arithmetic this fifth-grader already knew. If one were 'diligent'. It takes 15 and 16 year old Home-School students in the Robinson Curriculum 2 to 4 hours to solve such problems. I showed her and her family how to do this problem in about an hour. Then I changed the problem around and asked her to solve it. I had in mind to see how long, how many hours, it now took for her to do it, as fifth-grader, on her own. She replied with the correct answer more or less instantly. It was her doing it, not me. She had acquired a high level ability in Math. But she had also acquired a high level ability in how to acquire skills to solve problems. Good luck on what you are doing. - Leon
Tina Eaton
Mon, 08/18/2014 - 1:07pm
Well said, Carol!
Charles Richards
Mon, 08/18/2014 - 3:57pm
Charles Richards
Mon, 08/18/2014 - 4:09pm
Bravo Carol!
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 6:29am
Maybe you should get speel check
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Fri, 08/15/2014 - 9:01am
Memy, I like your comment.
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 7:33pm
One thing is absolutely true. The schools must teach the children what they need to know to be productive members of society. Several decades ago, the goal was to teach them how to be good factory workers, how to work for a company. These outdated goals do not serve the people of today. The kids must be their own entrepreneurs, get vocational training or go on to higher education. Companies no longer care for their employees; it's not a lifetime connection like it was before. Lansing has a vocational school that has provided opportunities for thousands of kids. Now, Michigan needs small business to flourish to hire these workers. Central Michigan University has a high homeless rate? They graduated with nowhere to go?! The US is a large place. These kids need to get their butts on a bus. I agree the seeking out of kids is a sign of failure but I don't place the blame in the same place and I agree, it needs to be done and lucky for us this woman has taken on the task. Michigan business needs to grow and be friendly to small business. Jobs. Michigan needs jobs. It's been several years. Why is there still very few jobs and even fewer full time jobs? No one is coming to help you, Michiganders. Seize the day and make your own way ... or move to another state. Times aren't bad for many, many other states.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 10:49pm
Christine August 13, 2014 at 7:33 pm Well said! I don't think they respond to comments much here. I will respond to your question from my viewpoint. 'Why is there still very few jobs and even fewer full time jobs?' I think small businesses are being discouraged overall. I did an analysis a few years ago and the amount missing, since 2008, from the small business credit market according to a government website, was almost exactly the same as the total amount the government borrowed, deficit spending. That amount nationally was 1 to 1.4 trillion dollars per year. This amount of indebtedness is also about the same as the total profit for those years for the entire American economy. The federal government essentially took ALL the profit from business in America and repurposed it to their self interests. So small businesses create most of the new jobs and new growth. The government and the banks have caused this problem. The solution: easier loans to small business. This could be done by using a bank taken by the FDIC at the federal level or by purchasing 'a credit facility' at the state level or by an individual purchasing a credit facility and doing this plan. An 'easier' loan would be 0 percent for 10 years with a 10% reserve deposit from the small business. Example: $250,000 deposit and a loan of 2.5 million. The amount of lending would have to replenish the 5 to 6 trillion shortfall we, the small business community, have seen. I received a newsletter from Senator Levin and did an analysis of the Small Business Jobs Act 2010, he was taking credit for. I sent him the analysis. He mentioned a bank here in Michigan (Crestar) that had received 8.3 million dollars for 10 years. This bank was not a low interest loan bank. Their balance sheet for the previous year showed an 18.3 percent return on funds. 18 percent interest rates. My analysis showed that Michigan Small Business's could wind up paying over 800 million to this bank over 10 years. That is a 'cost' of 800 million to small businesses for using this credit facility. I understand about half of the small banks in America just diverted the funds to their TARP payments in Washington and did not lend to small businesses at all. The total amount of loans was only about 4 billion nationwide, so it was very little compared to the 5 to 6 trillion shortfall above. Good luck.
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 8:25pm
Leon, You obviously are very ignorant. You don't appear to even know how to spell the word "R-O-A-D"!!
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Fri, 08/15/2014 - 8:56am
Kim August 14, 2014 at 8:25 pm You are very correct! That line should read, 'Dependency and Bounty Hunters, patrolling back-roads are symptoms of failure.' You represent yourself as 'very smart.' Can you tell me why you have not personally solved all the other problems of public education in Michigan yet? (Joke) You said, 'Leon, You obviously are very ignorant.' Unfortunately, this is very true as well.... If you like, I will share an apology from my son also: 'Yesterday was my fathers birthday. I forgot to call him. This man did an incredible job raising me. He would bring me to work and show me all the tools of his trade. He showed me how to stand up for your family and how to have patience with children. How amazing the world is and anything is within your reach. While other kids first computer was an atari 2600 mine was an IBM main frame. I once shutdown his companies brand new Multi-million dollar CAD-CAM system for a week. He took full responsibility for it at work and still brought me back in. I became fully trained on a mold injection lab before most kids take up baseball. I had helped tear down and rebuild a car engine by the time I was 11. I was able to do a brake job on the family car by myself by the time I was 15. I have many incredible memories and many abilities that I would not have if not for him. He has done many many amazing things. Thank You Dad. I love you. Sorry I didn't call yesterday.' Love - Leon
David Zeman
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 5:21pm
Hi Amanda, The following link to the state website provides some information on the state's duty to educate the homeless and contact information for a state coordinator on this issue. Brenda Greenhoe is one of several coordinators across the state who work to get homeless children connected with schools and social service programs to help them get back on their feet.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 10:51pm
David, That is an excellent link. Thank you.
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 2:29pm
Try "Mike Karl", homeless Angels!
Patty Farrell-Cole
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 12:41pm
Thank you, Pat and Bridge Magazine, for bringing to light the forgotten children and their families, who need help and encouragement.
Charles Richards
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 2:20pm
The Free Press article this column links to says, "Although the number of homeless students has risen dramatically in the past few years as the economy has faltered, the problem is underreported because many homeless families try to hide their situation." There lies the key to the most effective remedy -although not as immediately effective as might be wished. Economic growth, expansion of the work force is the surest, most powerful answer to the problem of homeless children. Doubtless, we need short-term, palliative measures, but they are not a long-term, permanent solution. The Free Press article also says the majority of homeless children are considered so because they don't have a permanent, stable home. They are staying with relatives or family members; not sleeping outdoors. That is not the impression given by the article.
david zeman
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 5:16pm
Hi Charles, Yes, the Free Press article is correct in its description of the homeless, as is our article above, which has the following passage: The homeless students Greenhoe helps are often not just living in tents and abandoned garages. Under federal law, students are considered homeless if they are moving from couch to couch in one home or another, or otherwise have no stable, long-term housing.
Charles Richards
Mon, 08/18/2014 - 4:17pm
Thank you, David, for pointing that out. But while the article is technically correct, it did not make it clear that a majority of the homeless children were considered so because of the definition.
Burt Vincent
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 2:57pm
I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middleof these comments. Government throwing money at the wrong places is at the heart of it. These parents have no homes and assuming no job and yet our borders are unsecure. The administration would like us to believe the children crossing our borders as preteens were able to walk penniless for hundreds of miles without help? I believe it is a political ruse and we need to help ouf own children first.
Norma Keech
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:19pm
In one comment, one talks about borders and them being unsecured. Do we remember how WE GOT THEM BORDERS. Brenda talks about homelessness in and around four counties, one of which I live. I had nineteen clients at one time, almost a third of them were homeless, due to the backwardness of "the social service" system. Barriers are created and maintained by the system. If one wants to see homelessness, get out in the rural counties and suburbs, and you'll see it. Closing our eyes, blaming government spending on wrong programs, is not going to cure homelessness. We need a system of people helping people, people giving to people, people who cares what their neighbors needs are, what our parents need, tearing down our government and blaming homeless people for homelessness, just does not make sense. Let's all join in and give a handout. Pay it forward, give your empty bedroom to an individual, donate that car extra car to someone who needs a ride to work, or ask what you can do to break down the barriers that keeps the homeless homeless. to when one has an abundance Hire the people who are looking for jobs and struggling to make ends meet, find empty homes and put a homeless family in there, and help them acquire hope and instill human kindness for our fellow human beings. I see hundreds of empty homes, cars for sale, empty apartments etc., give someone hope and take a chance on someone willing to work, willing to travel 50 miles for $7.50 an hour. Who can afford appropriate housing on that wage??? People stop complaint about the homeless and start working in the solution. Give a damn about your neighbor, your aging parents, the disabled vets, as well as the mentally handicapped. Help create a system that will fail those who reach out for help. It is OK to ask for help. PAY IT FORWARD.
Don Grimes
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 3:59pm
During the 2001 to 2013 period the economy in these four counties performed relatively well. In terms of employment, Ionia and Isabella grew faster than the U.S. overall, they are among the very few counties in Michigan that outperformed the U.S. over this period. Gratiot county lost jobs during this period, but at a slower rate than Michigan overall. Only Montcalm suffered a greater percentage job loss than Michigan overall, primarily due to the Electrolux plant closure there. The average wage, adjusted for inflation using the Detroit and U.S. Consumer Price Index, grew faster in Gratiot, Isabella, and Montcalm counties than in both Michigan and the U.S. Only in Ionia county did the real wage fall, by 18% between 2001 and 2013. So in terms of employment growth two out of these four counties beat the U.S.,and a third one did better than Michigan overall, and in terms of real wage growth three out of these four counties beat both the U.S. and Michigan. (The average wage in these four counties in 2013 was still substantially below the Michigan or U.S. average.) So the high poverty rate in these four counties persists despite a comparatively strong economic performance during the 2001 to 2013 period. This may mean that we need to address poverty directly instead of relying on a growing economy to lift all boats.
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 4:51pm
It is my understanding that there is a state law called project search. School districts are required by law to seek out and find students who are not receiving school school services and get them connected to their public schools. It goes to that notion that all children are entitiled to a free education. It amazes me how this can be seen as "bounty hunting". Instead of reading so much into it, maybe the thought of trying to help those in this such a difficult concept?
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 12:07am
John August 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm regarding your comment, 'It amazes me how this can be seen as “bounty hunting”.' Let's see, this person works for the schools, not the 'home owners association', and the schools have $20 to $30 million to gain by these activities, finding these kids. Would you have any real difficulty in classifying this as a 'bounty' if one were to receive $20 to 30 million extra dollars just for rounding up these 1500 or so kids? Now the police department, do they get some money for transporting these kids? I doubt it. Does social services get money for finding housing for these additional folks they have been neglecting? Not so much, maybe a fresh grant for services rendered. Who is the big winner here? $20 to 30 million cash payout for these kids, still sounds kind of 'bounteous' to me. Now, this homeless kid, if he or she is in fact destitute, getting a warm safe place to live and eat, that sounds like help to me. Now if this individual is given high paying, rewarding work that he or she loves to do and can feel productive doing, that sounds more like help to me. That is priceless! But of course that is not being done. Now, if this kid is being forced, by the force of compulsory education laws, to return to an education he finds senseless and to have no meaning for him in his life, that in fact does not prepare him for life or work or pleasure, and that he has already rejected strongly. I do not view that as helpful. Do you? It sounds more like a hunter being hired to find and a bounty being paid to return this kid to what he considers as no better than jail. We should consider any help offered from the viewpoint of the child. Ask any disappointed child about this education part. I know there is a commenter that has commented on this issue.
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 8:31pm
The law is entitled, "Child Find". "Project Search" is an extremely effective business led,employment training model for young adults with disability. Just and FYI!
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 4:52pm
As we write our comments and cite statistics, point fingers and suggest solutions, we need to do one more thing that might make all the difference. Walk a mile in the shoes of the families who are experiencing the homelessness and poverty. I left the ranks of observers five years ago and took a position at one of the city of Detroit's most successful homeless organizations in the area and what an eyeopener being on the ground level with the problems of homelessness and poverty. These are our neighbors, our fellow Americans, our Michigan citizens, our children. We need to do more than feel sorry for them and comment on the situation, we need to walk that mile.
Norma Keech
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:22pm
Exactly, help thy neighbor, whoever that might be.
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 5:49pm
My bravo comment was to Cathy Mueller for her empathetic remarks. I'm retired so many years past school days. However we lived in very poor conditions. Thanks to one particular teacher who kept encouraging me, helping after hours etc. I went on,with a few missteps, to higher ed and a professional career. Don't let these children be throw aways. Education is their way out of poverty,
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 6:06pm
I guess as long as they are not asking for help thats fine with some of us.then we don't have to make it a problem. I applaud this lovely woman and her efforts to help people!
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 7:19pm
I can appreciate this article, but where is the informaction on how people in dire situations can find help? I know a single, employed parent who is struggling, but eightcap won't return his calls for housing help.
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 9:57pm
I have to admit my struggles with this article, what is the purpose. Is the author not sure if the readers understand there is poverty in Michigan and that it extends into rural parts of every county? Is it that those in poverty are less likely to be successful/attend school? Is that there are people who are trying, successfully, to locate those kids no attending school? Is that there can be students that are homeless? I won’t say those things are something the vast majority of readers are aware of, rather I wonder why she did help us as readers to better understand those rural poverty students. I would be interested in what are the academic success rates for those students, even the attendance rates would give me more insight into the problem. I would be interested in the barriers to those students succeeding, are the similar to other students in poverty, or to the non-poverty students, or to the successful students. As an example, there was a mention of low expectations being a barrier, is this true of the other parts of the student population? If we better understand the barriers then we could begin to participate in activities to remove or lower those barriers. It was mentioned how difficult it is for Ms. Greenhoe to find the students as they may be back on less traveled roads. Could that remoteness be a barrier to school and maybe rather than taking them to school during the summer the school should be brought to them? Could a re-outfitting a bus into a school room that could drive those back roads and provide those students some added learning opportunities to help them succeed? This article/Bridge seems to reach a very interest and potentially energized audience, it is disappointing that it doesn’t offer some link where the readers could have a conversation exploring new and different ways to approach such a problem and even leading some to take individual actions.
Michelle Whitney
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:06pm
How can I get involved!!??
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 12:47am
Michelle, You might want to contact the website mentioned by David Zeman. It will lead you to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and then on to the 50 states. I think jobs, or participation resulting from that Act might actually be kind of elitist. Local participation might be better. I would say, plan to make 10 local calls. Plan to invest an hour or two and take notes. We have a community center that gets involved with most things. Call your local people and ask them about what you would like to get involved with and who in your area are doing those types of things. They should say what they do and what the churches are doing, what seniors are doing, and what other good Samaritans are doing what the boys and girls clubs are doing, and if there are any food kitchens or homeless shelters. With each person you talk to try to find the names and numbers of more people and groups. You should get the lay of the land real quick. You should include the Intermediate School District for your county and ask about what they do for the homeless. I think you will find the Red Cross does these things under very limited and temporary conditions, like when an apartment burns down. Lots of people have to be housed and fed right in a very short time. It requires special training, but the Red Cross can provide that training and they have special equipment like food trucks. My wife and kids used to go out to the wild fires in California for the Red Cross and feed hundreds of firemen and police officers. They used to order 200 or 300 burgers at Burger King and go in and say, 'We are here for the 300 burger order.' After you have done some homework, and asked a bunch of the right questions to the right people, drive and walk around your community and look. Just look for couple of hours. Once long ago my very young son woke me up in the night when we lived in Los Angeles California. He asked me to drive him around so he could see what the city looked like in the middle of the night. I just drove and he looked. He asked a few questions, but mostly I was amazed. He looked at the world as if it were completely new to him right now. It was kind of a rapture. You should look with such a viewpoint. Leave all your previous conceptions behind and just appreciate what you see now, that very moment only. As Ms Greenhoe said, once you get the feel for it, you will find such people and their locations very easy to find. Let us know here how you are doing. I would love to hear what your adventures are. Love, Leon
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:24pm
Can you tell me if we were to try and help find people, person, or families, who would we contact? Brenda Greenhoe??? How would we contact her?? And do we then have any financial or shelter obligations, we would be responsible for?? My husband and myself let a homeless couple stay with us for a weekend and officers informed us legally to make them leave, we had to evict them, as they had verbal, vulgar arguments the whole weekend, so we will not want shelter or financial obligations, but if we could locate then let someone else know, we might try to help!!
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 12:53am
Denise, See my comments to Michelle Whitney on getting started. August 12, 2014 at 10:06 pm. You sound like you and your husband need to be doing something and would be great. Let us know your adventures here. Love - Leon
Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:44pm
MY family was once homeless and Brenda Greenhoe helped us out by getting us warm sleeping bags, making sure that we could get back and forth to the bus stop, and emotional support- which she did personally, she didn't outsource our family. We are in a much better place in life, with two graduated young adults, stable employment, and we are always on the lookout for other families who are in similar situations as we were once in. 10 months in a pop up camper, most of that during the cold months, were no picnic, but with Brenda's help, we survived and made it through the biggest rough patch we'd ever been through, and I personally have total respect for the program, as well as for Brenda. If you've never lived through it, you can't imagine how bad it can be. Honestly. Brenda even had the maturity to admit that she could only imagine our frustration at our situation. Not many people will go out of their way to help a family in need, much less a family that is tough to identify, because they have no place to call home. Brenda is no bounty hunter, as one jaded commenter has assumed, she genuinely cares about the families she helps. Even now, while our lives are far better than they have ever been (albeit far from rich, we DO have our own home, our own vehicle, jobs, and education, so we are now richer than we've ever been!), she STILL keeps in touch with us and keeps an eye out for things we may need, while out and about. And she never asks a dime, even if it is well past office hours!
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 7:43pm
Becky, I am going into social work and sometimes wonder if it will be worth it in the end because social workers are paid so poorly. Your story is very inspiring to me to continue my path, thank you for sharing! Social work is all about the outcome not the income. Far from bounty hunters!! You and your partner should be very proud!! You worked much harder to get where you are than anyone who would criticize people in that position, I assure you that!!
Thu, 08/14/2014 - 2:18am
Heather- NEVER give up on the dream of becoming a social worker! Many more are needed, than our society even imagines. I know of families in more dire situations than my husband and children and I endured, and they aren't afraid to ask me for help- because they know I've been through rough times- but I also help them reach out to any agencies they need to, to get other help. I'm a minister (I was before the homelessness, as well, but a former landlord wanted his rental to give to his son and we had very little income, so a suitable place was out of our reach for a long time), so I do quite a lot of social work, without a degree, but with my heart fully in it. I was lucky, we didn't need a whole lot of help, but we had Brenda in our lives and she kept giving us encouragement to push forward, and that in itself was what kept us going, when we felt at our wits end. She knew we were trying to get back on our feet and I already knew all the resources (except for the homeless student liaison program she works with), so it was a terrific relationship, that my family still appreciates and thinks VERY positively about. I have sent a couple of other families to the office, to get help from Brenda, too, because she can't always find those families bouncing around from couch to couch or relative to relative- but she sure does try! Heather, I sincerely hope that more people, like you, will reach out to families in need, offer a listening ear, guidance to resources that can help them, and positive encouragement!