MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — While men and women laid their lives on the line for our county, veteran homelessness remains a problem in Upper Peninsula and across Michigan.

November is Homelessness Awareness Month and Nov. 11 is Veterans Day.

According to the Homeless Management Information System, there are an estimated 2,443 veterans experiencing homelessness in Michigan. Across the U.P., there are about 91 homeless veterans. Marquette County has the most homeless veterans with 27, followed by Dickinson County with 21.

Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency’s Women Veterans and Special Populations Coordinator Erika Hoover said the primary reason behind the problem is probably a lack of affordable housing, but there are other factors, too.

“Folks not identifying as veterans right away or not identifying and entering the system to for services,” she offered as examples. “So especially … women veterans don’t identify as veterans and so once they finally do identify as veterans, they’ve gone down the rabbit hole a little too long. It’s a combination of all kinds of things: mental health, substance use. There’s all sorts of reasons why veterans experienced homelessness, and all sorts of resources available, as well.”

The state of Michigan is investing $2 million this year to combat the problem through the Michigan Veteran Homelessness Prevention Grant.

“This is the first year the MVAA has ever been able to do anything like that,” Hoover said. “We’re giving out 13 grants and $150,000 each and while we know that that’s not a ton of money, that’s a lot spread out through the state.

“We’re hoping to show that that need is there,” she continued. “We had way more (veterans) apply and way more than grants we were able to give, and so we’re hoping that with that data and with the things in the programming that’s innovative that comes out of that grant, that we’ll be able to lobby for additional funding from our legislators and be able to do a lot more good in our communities where folks are.”

Kent County Veterans Services can be reached at 616.632.5722. Veterans can also call 1.800.MICH.VET or visit Michigan.gov/MVAA for assistance.