This morning, I attended the Continuum of Care All Membership Meeting. The Continuum of Care (if you remember from a previous post) is the organization that coordinates all the community’s efforts to end homelessness. The members are various agencies and organizations around Washtenaw County. I am, admittedly, an interloper in this group. But, I got the invitation, I wasn’t teaching, and I decided to go. These meetings are a great place to get caught up on the large scale service and advocacy efforts happening around affordable housing and homelessness. So, here, I pass along to you, some of those updates.
First, in case you’ve been thinking about how people who are currently homeless are surviving in this frigid weather, the Shelter Association in the City of Ann Arbor has expanded its warming centers, thanks to funding from the County and the City, and volunteers from MISSION and a number of local congregations. There are three additional shelters:
- additional overnight rotating shelter for 50 men (hosted by churches)
- daytime warming center (hosted by churches)
- nighttime warming center (at Delonis)
Zero: 2016 and Point-in-Time Count
Second, Washtenaw County has joined the Zero: 2016 Campaign, a follow-on campaign to 100,000 Homes, sponsored by Community Solutions. Community Solutions actually helped 186 cities, counties, and states house 105,000 of the most vulnerable people. The Zero:2016 Campaign is focused on ending veteran and chronic homelessness–an attainable goal! The kickoff of Washtenaw County’s participation will take place at the biannual Point in Time Count on Wednesday, Jan. 28. The point in time count (required for HUD funding) attempts to count everyone in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and outlying communities who is homeless, whether they are sleeping outside or in a temporary shelter. Volunteers will cover the county to survey everyone who is homeless in our community and to create a by-name registry that prioritizes people for housing. If you’d like to help, you can find out more about the Point-in-Time Count at this link: bit.ly/WashtenawPITcount. Volunteers are needed not only to do the hard, cold work of surveying but also to sponsor food coupons, to sponsor refreshments for volunteers, to sponsor t-shirts, and to sponsor printing of survey forms.
Apparently, HAWC (Housing Access Washtenaw County) has come in for some criticism lately, based on the presentation at this meeting. Still, HAWC is the single point-of-entry that connects people who are experiencing housing problems with agencies that can help them. If you or someone you know is threatened with eviction, has trouble paying rent or utilities, or has lost their home, call HAWC first. Here’s the number: 734-961-1999.
Affordable Housing Needs Assessment
Washtenaw County worked with consultants to develop an Affordable Housing Needs Assessment. Brett Lenart presented this Assessment at the conclusion of the meeting. Briefly, the findings are (not surprisingly) that Ann Arbor is a town in which demand for housing outstrips supply, while Ypsilanti is a town where supply outstrips demand. Prices in Ann Arbor go up; prices in Ypsilanti go down. Moreover, housing stock in Ypsilanti is increasing turning over to rental rather than owner occupied, housing. The recommendation of the assessment is to increasing affordable and workforce housing in Ann Arbor, and to improve amenities in Ypsilanti, so as to increase demand for housing there by better educated, higher earning workers and families. Again, the takeaway: the solution to homelessness is more affordable housing. There’s plenty of advocacy to be done around that issue. More next time!