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      Homelessness a growing reality

      "It would mean the world to me if I had my own place. The first thing I would do is try to pay back those who helped me through this," said a resident of Room at the Inn.Theew are people of all ages who, at one time, had a normal life with a job and a home, but due to unforeseen circumstances lost it all. Recent data collected by the Alger Marquette Continuum of Care shows 815 people were homeless in 2012, including 129 kids around the age of eight."It defines a problem in our community that our community is trying to address, but we still need to go much further to address it," said Robert Niemi, Mayor Pro Tem.So the AMCOC is trying to raise awareness in our community about this growing problem. Officials say you may associate a homeless population with a bigger urban city, but with this area being more rural, the impact is greater.One of the biggest issues facing the homeless is housing."We have a lot of housing stock in the service area, but affordable housing that is in close proximity to essential services is an issue. We definitely need to do more on that front," said Amy Lerlie, Director of Housing Services with Alger Marquette Community Action.So, the coalition, along with other agencies, like Room at the Inn, are trying to put an end to it by 2016. It's part of a statewide ten-year plan.Set aside from finding housing, they also have the struggle of finding permanent employment."There are other things that go along with that. There's education. I mean, there are people we work with that have a college degree, but about 20 percent of the homeless people in 2012 didn't even have a GED education," said Jason Parks, Coordinator of Alger Marquette Continuum of Care.They are hoping to continue raising awareness and building new relationships with community agencies that can help provide support to those in this situation.