Washtenaw County allocates $3 million for services to address rising homelessness rates

In response to the rapidly increasing rate of homelessness and eviction rates, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has approved a proposal to allocate $3 million to local human service providers. Homelessness has been steadily increasing due to state and national COVID-19 emergency funding no longer being available.

District 5 Commissioner and Board Chair Justin Hodge says the proposal was fast-tracked and passed the same night because the issue of homelessness is a "top priority" for the board.

"An item of this size would usually have a first and second reading on our agenda," Hodge says. "This was something I felt was critical. We want to provide opportunities to families to build both wealth and health."

Previously, a decision to extend the county’s Emergency Family Hoteling program was approved, with as many as 90 families sheltered in hotels throughout the county. Hodge, however, feels that more permanent solutions can be achieved through the new funding. The funds will go to local organizations focusing on homelessness and other factors which may contribute to homelessness, such as access to healthy foods.

"Keeping people in hotels can create a number of issues for families," Hodge says. "We’ve partnered with and allocated dollars to a long list of organizations, such as Peace House and Seniors for Healthy Living, in order to be thoughtful across the lifespan."

While the $3 million allocation is a direct response to the current homelessness crisis, Hodge also says the board is actively looking for more community human resource partners in order to expand those services even further.

"We are committed to helping people with basic needs," he says. "We want to partner with any organizations who want to do that." 

An update to the funding’s framework will be provided at the board of commissioners' May 4 meeting. That update will include determinations on how much of the $3 million will go towards services like providing shelter, preventing eviction, and rental assistance. Hodge also says that human services will continue to be discussed at tonight’s meeting on April 19. All board meetings are open to the public.

"My background is in social work, so I’m very focused on human services, having provided them myself," Hodge says. "I’m hopeful that as we continue to address immediate needs, we’ll work toward long-term solutions."

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photo by Doug Coombe.
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