Ypsilanti Community Schools' (YCS) new resiliency center has helped more than 300 people since it opened Dec. 15 on the campus of the former Willow Run High School in Ypsilanti Township.
Marquan Jackson, YCS homeless liaison, says the idea for the center grew out of talks with YCS Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross about the feedback he was receiving from YCS families. Jackson proposed a "one-stop shop" to meet a variety of needs.
"There are a lot of resources available, but the navigation of the different systems in the county is sometimes complex for families," Jackson says.
YCS staff decided to create a center where YCS families and others in need who live in the school district could have access to personal protection equipment (PPE), a food pantry, internet, a clothes closet, and a toy closet for families who might have a child with a birthday coming up but few resources.
"The Southside has the Parkridge Community Center, but it seems like the missing link is near the Willow Run area of Ypsilanti [Township]," Jackson says. "We thought, 'What if we utilized a building we already owned and served families near the Willow Run campus?'"
Not only did the school district tap an under-utilized building, but it also put transportation staff to work getting the center up and running during a time when fewer transportation employees are needed because of the number of families choosing remote learning, Jackson says.
The first major push was to serve area families during the holidays, providing toys and clothes for holiday gifts alongside PPE and cleaning supplies. Jackson says the center served 115 families, averaging about four people per family, before the holiday break.
"Our average family of four is self-reporting an average of less than $1,200 in income per month," Jackson says. "It really speaks to our working poor families who are in need of more support. The goal is to eliminate barriers, and for now, we are standing in the gap, being responsive to their needs."
Now that the holidays are over, the next push will be to collect and distribute warm clothing and coats, Jackson says. He says he also hopes that various nonprofits and other entities who partner with the schools will be able to work out of the space and connect their users to resources at the Resiliency Center, including the Washtenaw Intermediate School District's Trusted Parent Advisors and public health workers.
Families aren't allowed into the space yet. But once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, they will be able to come to the center in person and use services indoors, including a proposed tech lab that would provide wi-fi access and wireless printing, Jackson says.
In the future, Jackson says he'd also like to establish a resiliency fund that would help a homeless family fund an overnight stay in a hotel or provide other support to families experiencing housing instability.
The YCS Resiliency Center is open 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and evenings and Saturdays by appointment. Anyone who would like to donate a gently-used coat or other warm winter clothing may contact Jackson by email at email@example.com. A website with forms that families can fill out will be available soon, but in the meantime, families in the YCS district may call a helpline for assistance: (734) 221-1340.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
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.
Photo by Doug Coombe.