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Homeless Youth Increase in West Michigan

Posted at 8:37 PM, Apr 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-04 05:38:39-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Life is getting better for Kamesha Cunningham and her family in Kalamazoo.

However, 2012 was a trying time.

“I had a previous job… and um, car broke down, had to try to make ends meet, and it just didn’t work,” Cunningham explained. She lost her job in November, and like many people on Kalamazoo`s streets, financial struggles took their toll.

Unable to pay the bills, she and her husband eventually had to move from their home. She turned to the Kalamazoo Gospel Kission for shelter where she’s been living since January.

“It was really stressful,” Cunningham said of the time period.

Even tougher, the couple’s three kids had already spent all of last year living in Holland with their grandparents, “because where we stayed at was a little dangerous,” Desmond Cunningham, Kamesha’s son explained.

“The hardest part was leaving my mom and dad because we didn`t know we were going to stay there for that long,” the nine-year-old said.

“They were there for about a year, and I think I saw them twice,” she said.

Now staying at the shelter with mom, Desmond, Paris, and Anneshia are enrolled in school in Kalamazoo.

They’re among the 1,500+ homeless youth living in Kalamazoo County. It`s the second hardest hit county in West Michigan, behind Kent County.

Muskegon County sits at about 1,100. Calhoun is at 623.

“We do see an increase,” pastor Michael Brown, the mission’s executive director said.

“There was at one point about two months ago, we had 90-some percent more youth than we had the same time last year,” he said. “And so our after-school programs are loaded.”

Brown said people who fall on hard times either use their circumstances as an excuse to give up or persevere.

The Cunninghams have chosen the latter.

“Actually their grades improved, with grandma and grandpa there,” Kamesha said. “They’re all at the top of their class.

“Very, very resilient children”

The mother of three said she just started a new job. She`s now in the process of looking for a place to live.

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Here’s a county-by-county breakdown of the number of homeless youth in West Michigan. The numbers are for 2011-12.

Allegan – 540

Barry – 421

Branch – 404

Calhoun – 623

Ionia – 667

Kent – 2,915

Kalamazoo – 1,520

Montcalm – 526

Muskegon – 1,195

Newaygo – 677

Ottawa – 942

St. Joseph –  443

Van Buren – 568