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“There's a lot of need. We see that every day” says Jan Little, Chief Executive Officer of Michigan Ability Partners, a housing agency in Washtenaw county. “But we also see progress. We see the numbers going down on the [county’s Community Housing Prioritization] list.”
One reason why the number of homeless people in the county is decreasing may be because over the past four years, the Public Safety and Mental Health Millage has provided over $2 million to supportive housing agencies across the country to expand capacity and improve services.
One of those agencies, Michigan Ability Partners, received $357,546 from the millage in 2022.
MAP owns seven Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) properties, totaling 44 beds. Twelve are specifically for homeless veterans. As its name suggests, PSH is a permanent solution, designed to help people who have experienced chronic homelessness.
The PSH program not only provides permanent housing to low-income and chronically houseless individuals, but also connects them with medical and social care such as food stamps, income assistance, health insurance, behavioral and physical health care, legal services, and more.
The millage money will be used to expand MAP’s Permanent Supportive Housing program. Specifically, funding will bolster MAP’s supportive services for clients and fund two additional team members to staff the program.
The supportive services helps MAP partner with the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and other existing housing voucher programs to help individuals locate—and subsequently stay in—affordable housing. Without these types of supports, many of these individuals would remain homeless.
“The millage funding is a great way to decrease the number of people experiencing homelessness because it pairs subsidy vouchers with supports that help get more people off the streets and into housing,” says Little.
For example, when people first get plugged into the PSH program they may need help getting a driver's license or enrolling for benefit programs such as food stamps or Medicaid. They may need help finding a primary care physician and seeking regular health care. They may need a referral for Community Mental Health. MAP helps individuals with all of this and more.
Since millage funding became available in late 2022, six new households have been housed and one new housing supports coordinator, Will Crews, was on boarded to the MAP team.
MAP expects to soon support eleven additional households and hire a second housing supports coordinator.
Crews help new recipients of the vouchers get housed and connected to appropriate support and resources—right at the beginning. Housing supports coordinators also provide a level of case management to individuals—helping them create a plan about how to sustain housing long term. These plans might include securing employment and managing adverse health symptoms.
Data from MAP supportive housing programs indicate that these plans work. Today, the program has a 95 percent success rate for maintaining housing.
“Why do we do it? Because housing is a human right! That coupled with the look on someone’s face when they get housed and get keys to their apartments,” says Little when asked about the importance of the program. “I think our program gives people hope for a better future. That's why we do it."