A new publication is tackling Kalamazoo’s growing homeless population. The Homefront is comprised of 24 pages and a year of reporting.
The Homefront showcases people from different walks of life who have experienced homelessness and addresses the consequences if the city doesn’t act. The idea for The Homefront camea year ago after Ben Lando, the publication’s editor, started to see signs of the homeless problem but no solutions being talked about.
“In the weeks prior to the Bronson Park encampment last year, I had been noticing an increasing number of people who appear to be carrying all their possessions walking downtown Kalamazoo, more frequent sightings of people sleeping outdoors, and more people asking for financial help on the street,” Lando said. “At the same time, I had heard little to no talk by elected or appointed officials about taking steps to address what appeared to be an increasing number of people in our community experiencing homelessness.”
The publication gives a breakdown of the groups that experienced homeless in Kalamazoo County in 2018. 1180 are single adults 25 and older, 175 are young adults 18-24, 62 are youth under 18, 1033 are adults with families, 950 are children with families, 68 are military veterans.
“The status quo guarantees everything gets much worse. More people without shelter, let alone a sustainable apartment or home. Increased chances of people dying especially in the elements during rough winters,” Lando said. “Increased expenses to the health care system, to public safety, to other public services. And a potential negative impact on the economy and commerce especially in downtown Kalamazoo.”
The publication features people whose stories from an 80-year-old man who stays at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission to an 18-year-old lgbtq child who was kicked out of his home for being gay. Other featured stories include a mother and daughter who became homeless weeks before hundreds of homeless people set up shop in Bronson Park and a women who has been preyed on by a human trafficker. Lando said these stories are about the populations that are targeted most.
“We have four stories that highlight particularly vulnerable populations and illustrate both the risks they face within our current system, as well as some of the people and organizations working to help those populations.” Lando said.
Along with providing a perspective on homelessness, the publication also focuses on the how community leaders are attempting to deal with the crisis.
“Some people are more reluctant than others, for sure. As we tried to explore the issue from the perspective of people experiencing homelessness, often times people would not go on the record,” Lando said. “It was often difficult to get people in leadership positions to talk, though many did like the new mayor of Kalamazoo and the chair of the county board. I believe it's just a symptom of the underlying problem that there is a significant lack of leadership and strategizing to address the crisis.”
Now Kalamazoo published The Homefront and Encore Publications hosts the online version of the publication. Copies are also available at the Michigan News Agency in Downtown Kalamazoo.