Left Behind: What homelessness looks like in mid-Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- It's a problem that does not discriminate. For some people, it can be brief. For others, it can last months or longer.

A homeless man sits in Reutter Park in downtown Lansing on a cold November morning. (WILX)

It's a brisk November morning in downtown Lansing. Mike Karl is giving a tour to News 10's Barrett Tryon on what many never see while strolling through the city.

"I want to try to show you some of the areas that people don't normally see," said Karl, has he pulls his cart along Kalamazoo Street downtown.

It's something Karl, as the founder of Cardboard Prophets, a non-profit that works to get people off the streets, is very familiar with.

"I was homeless for about six months. And someone came out and helped me. And when he passed away in 2010, it was put on my heart. I have to do it, I have to be a part of that."

Over the last few years he, along with a team of volunteers, have worked to help those in the Capital City who need it most.

"Homelessness is definitely getting worse (in Lansing.) And there's a lot of people out here. They say there are about 4,500 people homeless."

Across the state, one of the fastest-growing populations to call the streets home are children. The most recent state data shows it affects around 15,000 kids alone.

While it's obviously a problem everywhere, there is something unique about it here in mid-Michigan.

"We see people in nice clothes and everything else. It's because we have a great community that gives them," said Karl. "So we shouldn't judge people because they have Nikes on or whatever. They're just people. They have a name, they have a story."

There is a daily struggle that remains the same, no matter what city you are in, whether or not in Michigan.

"Being homeless at night is easier. I can hide. But it's illegal to sleep in the parks in Lansing. Where do you go when the shelters are full?," Karl said. "We've got warm places during the day, but nighttime is a different animal."

Besides kids, seniors are the next population where there is rapid growth for becoming homeless. More than 6,000 people, ages 55 and up, are considered homeless in Michigan. Of that group, more than 75 percent have some type of disablity, state data shows.

To continue to follow along as Barrett tackles homelessness in mid-Michigan, follow him on Facebook.