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      Homeless count adds hope for the poor

      Wednesday is homeless count day, and social service agencies are trying to determine exactly how many homeless people live in the five county region.

      As we track the number and give a count of who is out there, it helps us to represent our area in northern Michigan to be able to access funding that might not otherwise come our way, said Ryan Hannon, Street Outreach Coordinator.

      The main reason we started doing the count back in the 1990's was|to receive funding from HUD (The Department of Housing and Urban Development)|we also discovered that it really helps us reach out to people who are homeless and offer assistance and let them know there is help available, said Cheryl Naperala, Greater Grand Traverse Area Continuum of Care.

      The homeless count takes place over a 5 county region. Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties are all included.

      Last year, 740 people were considered homeless or without a permanent place to live.

      We're counting people that are in shelters now, in transitional housing, on the streets and also we count people who are couch surfing and at risk of homelessness, Naperala said.

      After the 2011 count, The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded northern Michigan more than $726,000.

      That money supports organizations like the Women's Resource Center, the Foundation for Mental Health and the Goodwill Inn.