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Helter shelter

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There's never a good time to be homeless, but last year was an especially hard time for the destitute in Macomb County. According to the county's Homelessness Fact Sheet released last month, there were nearly 2,000 cases of men, women and children turned away from county homeless shelters last year due to lack of space. Carrie Fortune, coordinator of the Macomb Homeless Coalition, predicts that it's only going to get worse.

Because of a slow economy, Fortune says, Macomb is seeing a significant increase in new faces showing up at its shelters. An estimated 4,000 people experienced homelessness in 2005. At the same time, the county is seeing a dramatic cut in funding for its 16 shelters. As the problem grows worse, those compassionless conservatives at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development approved $676,000 in grants for the county's permanent and transitory shelters for fiscal year 2005-06, a drop from the $1.2 million approved for the past fiscal year. State funding has remained stagnant since 1999 and private donations are "way down," Fortune says. Add it all up and there looks to be way more people sleeping on the streets of Macomb County in 2006. Asked if there's anything the coalition can do to improve its financial outlook, Fortune simply says, "No. We have to just kind of wait it out and advocate for more funding."

What can someone turned away from a homeless shelter in Macomb do? Fortune says the lucky ones who can find their way to Oakland County might find shelter there. Otherwise it's another night spent sleeping in a car or maybe under a bridge.

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