The Rotary Club of Ypsilanti has partnered with four Ypsilanti restaurants for a series of "dine and donate" events to support services for Washtenaw County students who are homeless or facing housing insecurity.
The first dine and donate event takes place today at Red Rock Downtown BBQ, 207 W. Michigan Ave., and runs until 10 p.m. On Thursday, Sweetwaters at 735 W. Cross Street will host its dine and donate event from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., while Tower Inn Cafe at 701 W. Cross Street will donate a portion of its proceeds from 6-10 p.m. The last event in Ypsilanti is slated for Monday, Feb. 3, all day at Buffalo Wild Wings, 216 James L. Hart Pkwy. #1.
A portion of the proceeds from each event will go to The Education Project for Homeless Youth (EPHY), a grant-funded joint project of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Ozone House. EPHY provides transportation, clothing, advocacy, school supplies, and other services for homeless and housing-insecure students.
After hearing a talk on the root causes of homelessness, presented by Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) homeless liaison Marquan Jackson, the Rotary Club of Ypsilanti decided to launch the events to raise funds and bring awareness to housing insecurity among Washtenaw County students. The Ann Arbor Rotary Club is also urging its members to support the dine and donate events.
Jackson notes that Washtenaw County has one of the largest wealth gaps in the state, and that a person making minimum wage would have to work 100 hours per week to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.
"While Washtenaw County is forward-thinking in many ways, this economic gap and those numbers … mean that many families can't afford to live in Washtenaw County," Jackson says.
He notes that out of about 4,000 YCS students, several hundred are homeless or face housing insecurity every year.
"On a good year, it's around 6%, but it's been as high as 10%," Jackson says.
The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, passed in 1987, ensures that homeless pupils receive free transportation to and from school, allowing children to stay in the school they attended when they first became homeless, even if the family is residing outside the school district during a period of housing insecurity. Schools are also required to register homeless children even if they are missing immunization records or proof of residence normally required to enroll in school.
Jackson says the legislation was meant to keep homeless families together and near any social support network they may already have established.
Anyone wishing to participate in the dine and donate events must show a flyer or mention the flyer when they place an order, including carry-out orders. The flyer and other information is available on the YCS Facebook page.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.