Affordable Housing Creates Opportunities

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Many low-income Michiganders cannot currently access housing, which leads to other life impacts and household instability. MCAH is collecting information from around Michigan about needs and solutions to increase access to affordable rental units. Share your ideas to help MCAH bring solutions to our state legislators. If you work on affordable housing or issues related to homelessness, we invite you to take our affordable housing survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/R9BX9QH

Across America, wealth, income, and spending create a widening gap in affordable housing opportunities between low-income households and other households. Michigan is no exception. Every day, low-income Michiganders search for safe, affordable rentals and home ownership opportunities with little success. One of the most important solutions lies in increasing access to affordable housing. The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH) and our state partners are concerned about the lack of safe, affordable housing and the need for additional resources to increase affordable housing access for low-income and homeless populations in Michigan.

Housing Definitions

Let’s put the need for affordable housing into perspective for Michigan. Michigan’s Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $876 on average, ranging from $697 in Alcona County to $1,103 in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s minimum wage is $9.25 per hour, but an individual working for minimum wage at 40 hours per week for 52 weeks would not be able to afford a Fair Market Rent studio apartment ($534 on average) in most of Michigan. In fact, Michigan households need to make $16.85 per hour full-time (that’s $3,680 per month, or $35,057 per year) to afford an Michigan rental at Fair Market Rent.

Affordable housing is necessary for all households to survive and thrive, but there simply is not enough to go around. According to HUD, an estimated 12 million low-income U.S. households and 61% of low-income Michiganders are cost-burdened. This puts many of these households at risk of homelessness due to rising rents and stagnating incomes. Increasing access to affordable housing for low-income households creates lasting effects and removes barriers to improved physical and mental well-being, healthcare, reliable resources, and financial stability. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) 2018 report shows that low-income households with affordable housing are less likely to sacrifice necessities – like healthy food and health care – to pay rent. This increases stable housing situations and decreases the risk of becoming homeless, especially from evictions. In fact, affordable housing can have a positive impact on other social issues by reducing stress, hunger, drug abuse, and social isolation. It also increases social equity, access to healthcare, access to healthy foods, employment opportunities, and skills training . By increasing affordable housing in Michigan, we will create more opportunities to positively impact our communities.

This housing crisis “isn’t just about affordability—it’s about economic mobility, too,” – National Low Income Housing Coalition

Polling indicates that 75% of Americans believe that adequate, affordable housing is a human right. A community with enough affordable housing not only positively impacts individual household stability, but also improves its local economy in many ways. Using local resources helps increase affordable housing and assists with local job creation in construction and local businesses, and increases access and completion of job training programs. As households are able to spend less of their income on housing, they are also able to increases consumer spending locally due to increased financial stability.

While Michigan is not the only state in need of improved housing affordability for low-income and homeless populations, we still need immediate community solutions. Right now, communities need additional tools to invest in new housing developments, improve access to existing housing, and overall increase access to safe, affordable housing. We’ll be looking at what some of these solutions may be in the continuation of our blog series with deeper dives into zoning solutions, improving income, and improving resource assistance for low-income households.

First we need to better understand affordable housing needs and solutions in your community. We invite agency staff and stakeholders working on affordable housing to take our affordable rental unit survey. Your input will allow MCAH to bring data and information to our state legislators and advocate for real affordable housing solutions.

By Caroline Croom, MCAH Public Policy Intern. You can contact her at: ccroom@mihomeless.org. Additional questions or concerns can be directed to Laurel Burchfield // lburchfield@mihomeless.org and Jason Weller // jweller@mihomeless.org.

 

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Michigan State Legislative Candidates: Where Do They Stand On Issues Related to Housing Insecurity and Homelessness?

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Every election year the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness surveys state legislative candidates about their knowledge of homelessness. This year we’ve received many responses, but we would like to further increase candidate participation with the help of our community advocates.

Where do your Michigan state legislative candidates stand on issues of homelessness? Are they familiar with the services and systems to prevent and end homelessness in your community? What potential state solutions would they support? Would they become a champion on issues of housing affordability and homelessness if elected to serve?

The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness asks these questions and more in our 2018 Candidate Questionnaire. Engaging with candidates allows us, and you as their constituents, to begin important dialogues now before they take office. We’re excited to see a large response rate, with responses from around 1/6 of candidates from the 38 senate districts and 110 house districts. But now we need your help.

Who better to engage these candidates about issues of homelessness than the local advocates and voters in their district? Help us reach out to those who have yet to submit their responses and remind them how important it is for them to engage on issues of housing and homelessness.

We are sharing these candidates’ responses publicly so community advocates will be aware of their candidates’ positions on issues of homelessness when they head out to vote in the polls this November.

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How Can You Help?

Get your Michigan House and Senate candidates to complete the questionnaire!

  • Download this toolkit to learn more about how to engage: Candidate Engagement Toolkit
  • You can access the full questionnaire to send to your candidate in printable PDF here or as an online survey here.
  • Don’t know who your candidates are? Find your senate district here and your house district here based on your address.
  • We’ve put together a list of candidate websites, with their contact information if available, here.
  • Have questions or need help, contact Laurel Burchfield at lburchfield@mihomeless.org.

For the candidates who already responded, you can access their responses below. For the candidates who haven’t responded, MCAH encourages local advocates to reach out to them.

Candidate Responses (as of October 22, 2018)

If your district’s candidates have responded their name will be highlighted with a link to their responses. This list will continue to be updated as responses are received until October 26.

House District 1: Mark Corcoran-R | Tenisha Yancey-D | Gregory Croswell-L

House District 2: John Palffy-R | Joe Tate-D

House District 3: Dolores Brodersen-R | Wendell L. Byrd-D

House District 4: Howard Weathington-R | Isaac Robinson-D

House District 5: Dorothy Patterson-R | Cynthia A. Johnson-D

House District 6: Linda Sawyer-R | Tyrone Carter-D

House District 7: Marcelis Turner-R | LaTanya Garrett-D

House District 8: Valerie R. Parker-R | Sherry Dagnogo-D

House District 9: James Stephens-R | Karen Whitsett-D

House District 10: William Brang-R | Leslie Love-D

House District 11: James Townsend-R | Jewell Jones-D

House District 12: Michelle Bailey-R | Alex Garza-D

House District 13: Annie Spencer-R | Frank Liberati-D

House District 14: Darrell Stasik-R | Cara Clemente-D

House District 15: Doug Mitchell-R | Abdullah Hammoud-D

House District 16: Jody Rice-White-R | Kevin Coleman-D

House District 17: Joe Bellino, Jr.-R | Michelle LaVoy-D

House District 18: Kyle McKee-R | Kevin Hertel-D

House District 19: Brian Meakin-R | Laurie Pohutsky-D

House District 20: Jeff Noble-R | Matthew Koleszar-D

House District 21: Darian Moore-R | Kristy Pagan-D

House District 22: Arthur Blundell-R | John G. Chirkun-D | Matt Kuehnel-L

House District 23: Michael Frazier-R | Darrin Camilleri-D

House District 24: Steve Marino-R | Laura Winn-D

House District 25: Jazmine Early-R | Nate Shannon-D

House District 26: Al Gui-R | Jim Ellison-D

House District 27: Janet Flessland-R | Robert Wittenburg-D | Benjamin Carr-L

House District 28: Aaron Delikta-R | Lori Stone-D | Ryan Manier-L

House District 29: Timothy Carrier-R | Brenda Carter-D

House District 30: Diana Farrington-R | John P. Spica-D

House District 31: Lisa Valerio-Nowc-R | William Sowerby-D

House District 32: Pamela Hornberger-R | Paul Manley-D

House District 33: Jeff Yaroch-R | Andrea Geralds-D

House District 34: Henry Swift-R | Sheldon Neeley-D

House District 35: Theodore Alfonsetti III-R | Kyra Harris Bolden-D

House District 36: Doug Wozniak-R | Robert Murphy-D | Benjamin Dryke-L

House District 37: Mitch Swoboda-R | Christine Greig-D

House District 38: Kathy Crawford-R | Kelly Breen-D | Brian Wright-L

House District 39: Ryan Berman-R | Jennifer Suidan-D | Anthony Croff-L

House District 40: David Wolkinson-R | Mari Manoogian-D

House District 41: Doug Tietz-R | Padma Kuppa-D

House District 42: Ann Bolin-R | Mona M. Shand-D

House District 43: Andrea Schroeder-R | Nicole Breadon-D

House District 44: Matt Maddock-R | Laura Dodd-D

House District 45: Michael Webber-R | Kyle Cooper-D

House District 46: John Reilly-R | Mindy Denninger-D

House District 47: Hank Vaupel-R | Collen Turk-D

House District 48: Al Hardwick-R | Sheryl Y. Kennedy-D

House District 49: Patrick Duvendeck-R | John Cherry-D

House District 50: Trace Fisher-R | Tim Sneller-D

House District 51: Mike Mueller-R | David Lossing-D

House District 52: Teri Aluto-R | Donna Lasinski-D

House District 53: Jean Holland-R | Yousef Rabhi-D

House District 54: Colton Campbell-R | Ronnie Peterson-D

House District 55: Bob Baird-R | Rebekah Warren-D

House District 56: Jason Sheppard-R | Ernie Whiteside-D

House District 57: Bronna Kahle-R | Amber Pedersen-D

House District 58: Eric Leutheuser-R | Tamara Barnes-D

House District 59: Aaron Miller-R | Dennis B. Smith-D

House District 60: William Baker-R | Jon Hoadley-D

House District 61: Brandt Iden-R | Alberta Griffin-D

House District 62: Dave Morgan-R | Jim Haadsma-D | Peter Kobs (unlisted)

House District 63: Matt Hall-R | Jennifer Aniano-D | Ronald Hawkins-L

House District 64: Julie Alexander-R | Sheila Troxel-D | Norman Peterson-L

House District 65: Sarah Lightner-R | Terri McKinnon-D |  Jason B. Rees-L

House District 66: Beth Griffin-R | Dan Seibert-D

House District 67: Leon Clark-R | Kara Hope-D | Zachary Moreau-L

House District 68: Rosalinda Hernandez-R | Sarah Anthony-D

House District 69: George Nastas-R | Julie Brixie-D

House District 70: James Lower-R | Krestra Train-D

House District 71: Christine Barnes-R | Angela Witwer-D

House District 72: Steven Johnson-R | Ron Drayer-D | Jamie Lewis-L

House District 73: Lynn Afendoulis-R | Bill Saxton-D

House District 74: Mark Huizenga-R | Meagan Carr-D

House District 75: Daniel Schutte-R | David LaGrand-D

House District 76: Amanda Brand-R | Rachel Hood-D

House District 77: Tommy Brann-R | Dana Knight-D

House District 78: Brad Paquette-R | Dean Hill-D

House District 79: Pauline Wendzel-R | Joey B. Andrews-D

House District 80: Mary Whiteford | Mark Ludwig-D

House District 81: Gary Eisen-R | Joshua Rivard-D

House District 82: Gary Howell-R | Christophers Giles-D

House District 83: Shane Hernandez-R | Stefanie Brown-D

House District 84:  Phil Green-R | William Shoop-D

House District 85: Ben Frederick-R | Eric Edward Sabin-D

House District 86: Thomas Albert-R | Lauren Taylor-D

House District 87: Julie Calley-R | Shawn Winters-D

House District 88: Luke Meerman-R | Heidi Zuniga-D

House District 89:  Jim Lilly-R | Jerry Sias-D

House District 90: Bradley Slagh-R | Christopher Banks-D

House District 91: Greg VanWoerkom-R | Tanya Cabala-D

House District 92: Gail Eichorst-R | Terry Sabo-D

House District 93: Graham Filler-R | Dawn Levey-D | Tyler Palmer-L

House District 94: Rodney Wakeman-R | Dave Adams-D

House District 95: Dorothy Tanner-R | Vanessa Guerra-D

House District 96: Susan Kay Kowalski-R | Brian Elder-D

House District 97: Jason Wentworth-R | Bob Townsend-D

House District 98: Annette Glenn-R | Sarah Schulz-D

House District 99: Roger Hauck-R | Kristen Brown-D

House District 100: Scott A. VanSingel-R | Sandy Clarke-D

House District 101: Jack O’Malley-R | Kathy Wiejaczka-D

House District 102: Michele Hoitenga-R | Dion Adams-D

House District 103: Daire Rendon-R | Tim Schaiberger-D

House District 104: Larry C. Inman-R | Dan O’Neil-D

House District 105: Triston Cole-R | Melissa Fruge-D

House District 106: Sue Allor-R | Lora Greene-D

House District 107: Lee Chatfield-R | Joanne Galloway-D

House District 108: Beau LaFave-R | Bob Romps-D

House District 109: Melody Wagner-R | Sara Cambensy-D

House District 110: Gregory Markkanen-R | Ken Summers-D

 

Senate District 1:  Pauline Montie-R | Stephanie Chang-D

Senate District 2: Lisa Papas-R | Adam Hollier-D

Senate District 3: Kathy Stacker-R | Sylvia Santana-D

Senate District 4: Angela Savino-R | Marshall Bullock-D

Senate District 5: DeShawn Wilkins-R | Betty Jean Alexander-D

Senate District 6: Brenda Jones-R | Erika Geiss-D

Senate District 7: Laura Cox-R | Dayna Polehanki-D | Joseph H. Leblanc-L

Senate District 8: Peter J. Lucido-R | Paul R. Francis-D

Senate District 9: Jeff Bonnell-R | Paul Wojno-D

Senate District 10: Michael MacDonald-R | Henry Yanez-D | Mike Saliba-L

Senate District 11: Boris Tuman-R | Jeremy Moss-D | James K. Young-L

Senate District 12: Michael D. McCready-R | Rosemary Bayer-D |  Jeff Pittel-L

Senate District 13: Marty Knollenberg-R | Mallory McMorrow-D

Senate District 14: Ruth Johnson-R | Renee Watson-D

Senate District 15: Jim Runestead-R | Julia Pulver-D

Senate District 16: Mike Shirkey-R | Val Cochran Toops-D | Ronald A Muszynski-L

Senate District 17: Dale Zorn-R | Bill LaVoy-D | Chad McNamara-L

Senate District 18: Martin Church-R | Jeff Irwin-D

Senate District 19:  John Bizon-R | Jason Noble-D | Joseph P. Gillotte-L

Senate District 20: Margaret E. O’Brien-R | Sean McCann-D | Lorence Wenke-L

Senate District 21: Kim LaSata-R | Ian Haight-D

Senate District 22: Lana Theis-R | Adam Dreher-D

Senate District 23: Andrea Pollock-R | Curtis Hertel, Jr.-D

Senate District 24: Tom Barrett-R | Kelly Rossman-McKinney-D | Kate Nepton-L

Senate District 25: Dan Lauwers-R | Debbie Bourgois-D

Senate District 26: Aric Nesbitt-R | Garnet Lewis-D | Erwin Haas-L

Senate District 27: Donna Kekesis-R | Jim Ananich-D

Senate District 28: Peter MacGregor-R | Craig Beach-D | Nathan Hewer-L

Senate District 29: Chris Afendoulis-R | Winnie Brinks-D | Robert VanNoller-L

Senate District 30: Roger Victory-R | Jeanette Schipper-D | Mary Buzuma-L

Senate District 31: Kevin Daley-R | Cynthia A. Luczak-D

Senate District 32: Ken Horn-R | Philip Phelps-D

Senate District 33: Rick Outman-R | Mark Bignell-D

Senate District 34: Jon Bumstead-R | Poppy Sias-Hernandez-D | Max Riekse-L

Senate District 35: Curt VanderWall-R | Mike Taillard-D | Timothy Coon-L

Senate District 36: Jim Stamas-R | Joe Weir-D

Senate District 37: Wayne Schmidt-R | Jim Page-D

Senate District 38: Ed McBroom-R | Scott Dianda-D

By Gabriella Abalo, MCAH Public Policy InternYou can contact them at: gabalo@mihomeless.org.

Introducing Michigan’s First Homeless Speakers Bureau

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The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness is thrilled to announce our new Homeless Speakers Bureau! Learn more and request a speaker for your community events at www.mihomelessvoice.org.SB logo_blue text

In 2016, 66,483 Michiganders experienced homelessness, including children, veterans, families, and seniors. The public doesn’t often interact with this invisible population, and for many their perceptions of homelessness are based on media images or individuals on street corners. There aren’t opportunities to hear personal stories about how the experience of homelessness affects someone’s life, the struggles of finding housing and support, and how many are simply a few paychecks away from homelessness.

The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness hopes to bring these stories into our communities through the new Michigan Homeless Speakers Bureau to increase empathy, educate decision makers, and create solutions for preventing and ending homelessness in Michigan.

What is a speakers bureau?

A speakers bureau is an organization of people who speak on a certain topic: in our case, the experience of being homeless. The Michigan Homeless Speakers Bureau is a platform for those who have experienced homelessness in Michigan to share their stories. The ultimate goal is to remove the stigmas associated with homelessness and raise awareness about this very real problem that affects many people both throughout the state of Michigan and around the country.

We train our speakers to tell their personal story and experience of homelessness, prepare them with data and statistics from around the state, and make them available for speaking engagements in your community. They don’t represent everyone’s experience, but are the experts in their own story, and every story is different.

Who is involved?

 

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The 2018-2019 Speakers Bureau. (Not pictured: Robin). Photo by Gigi Morton, The Vets Of…

The 2018 inaugural class is composed of 8 individuals who are trained, prepared and available to speak at organized events about their personal experiences. They represent communities across lower Michigan and speak from diverse experiences of homelessness, including sleeping in cars, shelters, and the streets due to evictions, domestic abuse, lack of familial support, incarceration, and issues related to mental health.

Visit our website to learn more about each of our Speakers and their journeys.

Why is the MCAH Speakers Bureau important?

The public’s perception of homelessness is often based on what we have been conditioned to expect: someone who has chosen or deserves homelessness due to personal decisions regarding substance abuse, unwillingness to work, or other distasteful habits. This is an inaccurate and dangerous way to view a condition that is often outside of an individual’s control. In recent years Michigan has seen an increase in families becoming homeless because they can’t afford the rising costs of rent, in seniors who don’t have a safety net once they reach retirement age, and in youth and women – often fleeing from domestic abuse. Often, a family is just one emergency away from being unable to afford their home.

The new Homeless Speakers Bureau will change the conversation around homelessness to regularly include the voices of those who have personally experienced it. With these speaking opportunities, we aim to challenge stereotypes about homelessness and provide an opportunity for those who have been silenced to have their voices heard. As these stories come to light, we can better understand the causes of homelessness and the role each of us has in better serving our community members and neighbors.

Our Goals

  • Raise awareness about issues related to homelessness
  • Break stereotypes and stigma associated with homelessness
  • Put a face to homelessness through personal stories
  • Effect proactive change in Michigan

What can I do to help?

The most important thing we can do is listen to stories that aren’t our own and keep an open mind and heart to change. We encourage you to schedule a speaker for your community event – whether at a club meeting, presentations to students, educators, or staff, or conversations with decision makers.

You can also support the Speakers Bureau through a sponsorship or donation. We are fortunate to receive support through our Gold Sponsor Cinnaire, but we need additional financial support to make this a strong initiative that can make an impact on our communities. Sponsorship packages are available, including community sponsorships of $100 or in-kind donations. To make a donation or learn more about sponsorships, please contact Laurel Burchfield at lburchfield@mihomeless.org.

Only by better understanding homelessness – real homelessness and the individuals and families who have experienced it – can we hope to end it.

For more information, please visit the Michigan Homeless Speakers Bureau website at http://www.mihomelessvoice.org.

By Laurel Burchfield, Manager of Marketing, Growth, and DevelopmentYou can contact her at: lburchfield@mihomeless.org.

Work Requirements Are A Solution In Search Of A Problem

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Image of HUD Secretary Ben Carson. Source:

Recently, a number of proposals have been put forth by various government bodies to tighten work requirements for those who receive government assistance. Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH) takes a firm stand against work requirements, in that we believe it is a solution in search of a problem which could adversely affect the tens of thousands of individuals experiencing homelessness each year in Michigan.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary Ben Carson has shifted its criteria to reflect a perception of government assistance recipients as people who aren’t pulling their weight, or even taking advantage of the system. Buzzwords such as “self-sufficiency” and “personal responsibility” are often employed, with the stated goal by believers in this worldview to push targeted demographics to become independent and, well, self-sufficient.

Work requirements are a reflection of this perception. Work requirements are fairly self-explanatory on the surface but can take on a variety of different forms and be applied to all government benefits. At this time, we are seeing attacks against federal and state programs including SNAP, Medicaid, and housing assistance. The most common and straightforward form of work requirements is a simple minimum number of hours per week recipients of X government program are required to work, volunteer, attend school, or undergo workforce training.

On a base level, MCAH opposes work requirements because they are a solution in search of a problem. Earlier in 2018, Secretary Carson was directed by the Trump Administration to put forth proposed work requirements for federal housing recipients, which wouldn’t allow recipients to deduct costs for necessities such as health care and child care when reporting income. He justified this by claiming that many in government housing were able to include deductions that others might not be aware of, reinforcing the mindset of government assistance recipients as freeloaders living off the government and not working.

But the evidence does not support that claim and paints a very different reality. The majority of individuals who are homeless or living below the poverty line are already working, many 40 or more hours a week. Among Medicaid recipients specifically, the majority are working either full-time or part-time, with the rest unable due to various extenuating circumstances.

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A visual breakdown of Medicaid recipients’ work status in the United States. Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a recent study found, among other things, that work requirements did not substantially increase employment or stable employment, and that “the most successful programs supported efforts to boost education and skills, rather than simply requiring people to search for work or find a job.”

Many proposals for work requirements set the minimum number of hours around 30 a week, though Michigan’s proposal on Medicaid work requirements was loosened to an average of 80 hours a month, providing some flexibility. Among many of the objections MCAH has about strict work requirements is the concern that many able-bodied individuals who might receive these forms of assistance work jobs with sporadic hours, which assign hours as needed and might not assign the minimum number of hours needed every week. It might not be realistic or feasible to consistently meet these requirements.

The tightening of these standards might make them impossible for some to meet, and much evidence suggests that large factions of people who use programs which implement work requirements will be dropped from said programs as a result. Fortunately, at this time Congress has not incorporated Carson’s proposed standards for federal housing into legislation, but draft legislation is currently being entertained to go forth with the proposed work requirements and rent increases.

Meanwhile, the push for work requirements continues through other programs, particularly Medicaid. Kentucky is one such state to adopt stricter work requirements for Medicaid and projects that in the next five years 65,000 Medicaid recipients will lose their coverage as a result of the new standards. The Michigan legislature, after a heavy partisan debate earlier this year, passed a Medicaid work requirements bill which was signed by the Governor and will go into effect later this year. The House Fiscal Agency estimates that 27,000 to 54,000 non-exempt, able-bodied adult Medicaid recipients (or 5%-10%) could lose their coverage under the new requirements.

And although it is typical for these work requirements to theoretically exempt senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers, not everyone who should qualify for exemptions might actually receive exemptions in practice. This may be due to lack of access to information, or inability of certain individuals to understand or fill out documentation due to afflictions with mental illness. The penalties for failing to meet increased reporting requirements can be severe, including losing benefits for months until the recipient can prove compliance with the regulations.

All of these arguments and evidence back MCAH’s reasoning for our opposition to work requirements. They spend a lot of unnecessary money to fix a problem that does not exist in a way that would kick thousands of people off government assistance they need. Self-sufficiency and personal responsibility are end goals that most want for low-income individuals, but work requirements will not make them more self-sufficient. They are more likely to cut low-income individuals off from coverage they need and make it more difficult for them to make ends meet. For these reasons, MCAH takes a firm stand against work requirements and believes them to hurt homeless/low-income demographics more than they help.

By Sam Granger, MCAH Public Policy InternYou can contact him at: sgranger@mihomeless.org.

The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness invites you to the fifth annual Breakfast of Champions on Thursday, May 31.

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Each year MCAH recognizes the exceptional work happening across Michigan in the work to prevent and end homelessness. This is our opportunity to celebrate the Champions who make a real difference in our communities and the lives of those experiencing homelessness. Please join us in celebrating our 2018 Champions!

Courtney Smith, Detroit Phoenix Center

Community Champion

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Courtney Smith is the founder and executive director of Detroit Phoenix Center, a high impact nonprofit organization that provides critical resources, support, and a safe, nurturing environment for youth at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. Under her visionary leadership, Detroit Phoenix Center has served over 1,000 youth through outreach and programming efforts, including the first and only asset-based resource center in Detroit, an emergency winter youth shelter, and an endowed memorial scholarship fund. Smith has received multiple regional and national awards, including the two-time recipient of the Spirit of Detroit Award, grantee of the Comcast NBCUniversal Social Impact Award, the Women of Excellence Award, and listed in 2018 Crain’s Detroit Business Prestigious “20 in their Twenties.” She has also been featured by multiple national publications, including Michigan Entrepreneur TV, Rolling Out Magazine, USA Today and NPR.  

Phil Cavanagh

Public Policy Champion

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Phil Cavanagh is a longtime advocate for the homeless in Michigan – first as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives (2011-2014) and now as the Wayne County assistant deputy treasurer. In both roles, he has fought for Michigan’s most vulnerable residents against foreclosures and evictions. In 2014, Cavanagh sponsored PA 499, which allowed homeowners to bundle all years of delinquent taxes into one payment and spread that payment over five years while also lowering the interest rate from 18% to 6%. In Wayne County, where he continues to promote good policy and practice with regards to foreclosure, over 36,000 homeowners have used payment plans to avoid losing their homes. Cavanagh also serves on the governor-appointed Michigan Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Robert Elchert

Public Policy Champion

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Robert Elchert is the force behind efforts to provide valid IDs to individuals experiencing homelessness in Calhoun and Kalamazoo Counties. Each year tens of thousands of Michiganders without an ID are denied housing, services, resources, or even a night in a hotel. Within his role as community impact associate at the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, Elchert works collaboratively with community stakeholders on identifying and solving problems for low-income and vulnerable clients in the region. He was a founding member and continues to be a co-chair of the Calhoun-Kalamazoo County Regional ID Task Force that led the effort to implement the Michigan Secretary of State’s program to allow homeless individuals to use alternative documentation to get a state ID in Calhoun County and fee waivers for vital records in both Calhoun and Kalamazoo Counties. In just the first five months of the Kalamazoo Vital Record Program, over 120 individuals have obtained their vital records.

Addisyn, Jackson, and Sheridan Goss, Snuggle Sacks

Volunteer Champions

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Addisyn Goss of Fenton started Snuggle Sacks in 2015 at the age of eight after learning about her own grandfather’s homelessness. Snuggle Sacks has since provided survival kits for thousands of individuals experiencing homelessness in 25 Michigan counties and has helped over 8,000 individuals receive medical services. Together with siblings Sheridan (16) and Jaxson (13), Addisyn (now 11) works with volunteers and donors to assemble between 300-500 snuggle sacks each month and distributes them at local shelters, soup kitchens, outreach organizations, government agencies, and their own street outreach. Each snuggle sack contains essential items to make everyday life a little easier for those experiencing homelessness, including a toothbrush and toothpaste, hand warmers, lip balm, a brush or comb, a blanket, and a bottle of water. Addisyn finishes each bag with her own personal touch – a note that reads “I know you may be feeling down right now and don’t think life is fair. Please remember that there are people who care about you, and things will get better. I hope this makes you smile. With love, Addisyn.” 

Leslie Raleigh

Legislative Action Champion

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Leslie Raleigh is the first recipient of the Legislative Action Champion award, an honor that befits her accomplishments to pass policy change aiding low income families in Genesee County. Raleigh, appointed Genesee County chief deputy clerk in 2013, spearheaded efforts to pass the 2017 county resolution that waived vital document fees for all low-income residents of Genesee County. This includes birth certificates which cost an average of $25 per record. This pilot program spanning 2017-2018 has in the first six months already served over 250 individuals – many of whom are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The majority of these individuals are school-age children required to submit birth certificates during school enrollment. Raleigh’s efforts have ensured that school age children don’t have to miss school because parents can’t afford the vital records needed for registration, and have broken down barriers for low-income families to access the documents they need to be able to access state IDs.

This event takes place Thursday, May 31st from 8:30 AM to 11:00 AM. If you wish to attend, you can register here. There’s also still time to join the 2018 sponsors in celebrating our Champions! Learn more about sponsorships, including table sponsorships, at our website.

By Laurel Burchfield, Manager for Marketing, Growth, & Development at Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. For more information, you can contact her at lburchfield@mihomeless.org.