Increasing Health and Housing Outcomes Through Integrated Systems

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The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness is excited to launch a new initiative funded through the Michigan Health Endowment Fund entitled: Increasing Health and Housing Outcomes Through Integrated Systems. This initiative will select one Michigan community to pilot a 6-month effort to establish partnerships between key community stakeholders for the purpose of establishing system linkages and improving health and housing outcomes for seniors aged 55+ experiencing literal homelessness. Interested pilot communities should download the RFP and attend our educational webinar on June 5.

In 2017, Michigan saw a decrease in individuals experiencing homelessness for every demographic except for one: Seniors aged 55+. Nearly 8,000 seniors experienced literal homelessness, defined as living in on the streets, in vehicles, shelters, transitional housing, or hotel/motels. Of those 8,000 individuals, 82% were between the ages of 55-64.

For anyone experiencing homelessness, but for Michigan’s aging population in particular, living without a safe and permanent home can create additional barriers to maintaining one’s health. Homelessness is known to create health needs similar to housed individuals who are 15-20 years older, including geriatric conditions and premature death from chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Though the majority of this demographic are still of an employable age, these health conditions limit their ability to get and maintain gainful employment and regular income. In addition, nearly ¾ of Michigan’s homeless seniors self-report a mental or physical disability or substance use disorder.

Senior Homelessness

Housing is healthcare

The healthcare sector increasingly recognizes the social determinants of health that complete a patient’s medical care, including that up to 40% of health outcomes are tied to nonmedical factors such as housing. Individuals who are homeless have greater difficulty accessing quality and consistent healthcare, a problem exacerbated by the complex health needs of the aging population. They are also more likely to utilize ambulance services, have higher rates of hospitalization, and use the emergency departments four times as often as the general population.

Unfortunately, many Michigan communities lack the integrated systems necessary to sustain resources and services to house and care for our aging population. The cost of healthcare can be greatly reduced when individuals are stably housed and provided supportive services, with an estimated cost savings that offsets expenditures by between $9,000 and $30,000 per person per year.  But this approach only works with access to plentiful affordable housing, which many communities lack. Even with explicit federal resources such as Section 202 funding to provide and develop housing for seniors, the AARP found in 2006 that for every single unit of senior supportive housing built, ten more applicants wait.

Seeking a pilot community for systems integration

MCAH will be launching a new initiative, funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, which will include an in-depth analysis and work towards building a replicable model of housing and healthcare systems integration for intensive case management for literally homeless older adults with high-cost healthcare needs. This process and model will inform statewide needs, challenges, and opportunities for sector and individual housing and health improvements.

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The Michigan Health Endowment Fund works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents and reduce the cost of healthcare, with a special focus on children and seniors. More information about the Health Fund can be found at mhealthfund.com.

We’re excited to announce the opening of our RFP process for interested communities. MCAH will be selecting one Michigan community to participate in a 6-month pilot. The deadline to apply is June 28 at 5:00. The RFP is available to download at: http://bit.ly/MCAHRFP

An informational webinar on sector alignment, systems integration, and the RFP process will be held on June 5, 2019. We highly recommend interested applicants register and attend: bit.ly/housingishealthcarewebinar.

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

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Advocating For Affordable Housing Opportunities in Michigan

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The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH) is hosting the third annual Homelessness Advocacy Day on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. With your help and enthusiasm, this Homelessness Advocacy Day will advocate for improved policy to prevent and end homelessness. This year we will be educating Michigan policy makers on our 2019-2020 legislative priorities: legislation to increase access and decreasing barriers to affordable rental units and strengthening funding for homeless services and affordable housing opportunities. Register for Homelessness Advocacy Day before the April 8th deadline, and continue reading to learn about how you can advocate effectively during our event or on your own!

New public opinion polling by Opportunity Starts At Home indicates that 91% of people in the United States say stable affordable housing is very important or one of the most important things that affect people’s security and well-being. Yet the Michigan legislature has not prioritized solutions to increase affordable housing opportunities, and there are fewer advocates than the issue demands.

Increased affordable housing creates lasting effects like improved well-being, reliable resources, finances, and stability, and makes a positive difference on the local economy. Creating advocacy opportunities through an inclusive, community-oriented process in collaboration with community agencies also creates a larger positive impact on the community and housing access. When community members come together and advocate with a unified message, they can have a powerful influence on legislators and decision-makers to create meaningful change.

Advocacy can be a scary concept if you haven’t done it before, but it doesn’t have to be. At the heart of community advocacy is the ability to share your story and your community needs with someone who has the power to make change. Communities across Michigan are prioritizing the need for increased access to affordable housing, and MCAH is working to bring that momentum to the state capitol. Here’s how you can prepare yourself for state level advocacy, as part of MCAH’s upcoming advocacy day or on your own.

First, be prepared with reliable federal and state facts on housing and homelessness, as well as personal stories. A great starting place to get informed is through reliable news sites (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC), which all can be followed on Twitter and other social media sites. Attending your local community and city council meetings can also help you get informed. To learn about MCAH’s state priorities and our talking points for advocacy day, attend our prep webinar on April 9, 2019.  

After getting informed, make sure you know your state senators and representatives, as well as what issues and policies they represent. At this point, conduct outreach to friends, neighbors, groups, and organizations you are involved with about the importance of your issue and encourage them to help you educate your area’s legislators. Lobbying and advocacy through meetings, emails, letters, and phone calls to legislators, especially as a group effort, helps create awareness of community concerns that legislators should address. On advocacy day, MCAH will assist by setting up meetings with your legislator, but you can also reach out through constituent meetings in your district or other opportunities to connect with your elected officials.

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Advocates from the 2018 Homelessness Advocacy Day meet with Michigan Representative Tommy Brann.

Once you’re in your meeting, it is important to remember to respect everyone’s perspective, know your end goals, and know your elected officials and community resources. Remember to provide some data, followed by a 1 -2 minute story related to the issue at hand; short and sweet helps keep a legislator’s interest. A story could involve a summary of your experience or a client’s experience. If the story involves someone else, be discreet about their information; do not use their name or other identifying information. During your meeting, also give time for the legislator to ask questions, make comments, or express their interest. Note if they would like to stay in contact or would like to be involved with making a change. Always remember to thank your legislator for their time to learn more about what you are advocating.

While Michigan is not the only state in need of improved housing affordability for low-income and homeless populations, it is a state in need of solutions for these communities now. We encourage you to get involved with local efforts and to share your concerns with your state legislators. MCAH’s Homelessness Advocacy Day is a great way to this, whether you are a seasoned advocate or new to speaking with elected offices.

Please register for MCAH’s Homelessness Advocacy Day today! Registration closes April 8.

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.

Building Partnerships to Decriminalize Homelessness

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Please join us for our February 5 webinar, Decriminalizing Homelessness: Starting the Conversation,” for more information about building partnerships to better serve individuals experiencing homelessness in your community.

Campaigns like the national Housing Not Handcuffs highlight the ways that the basic existence of homelessness is being criminalized with arrests for publicly camping, loitering, and panhandling. This trend not only uses up criminal justice resources, but perpetuates the cycle of poverty that contributes to homelessness.

As people on the front lines interacting with individuals experiencing homelessness, police officers play a key role in breaking this cycle. An important way for local community agencies to fight for the decriminalization of homelessness is to start conversations with your local police about how they engage with this vulnerable population. These conversations can be the groundwork for connection to community resources rather than arrests, and could result in meaningful costs savings. In some places, cost saving studies have found criminalization alternatives could save taxpayers up to $149 million through reduced law enforcement resources and medical costs.

Michigan communities are already embracing several models for building partnerships between the police and homeless service providers, including street outreach teams, crisis intervention teams, and jail diversion programs. Having police involvement with these processes means that individuals experiencing homelessness on the street are redirected to the actual resources they need rather than receiving costly fees or jail time. Street outreach teams can help the police better understand the homeless experience on a day-to-day basis. Crisis intervention teams bring together mental health professionals and local community homeless agencies to educate law enforcement on how to connect homeless folks to the right community resources they need, and jail diversion programs help provide alternatives to the criminal justice system.

These models aren’t a one-size-fits-all for your community. The first few steps to building a partnership involve knowing the mental health resources in your community and starting a conversation with your local police. Knowing the mental health resources in your community means understanding their capacity for providing services. Once you know that, you can then start bridging the gap between their services and the police. Sometimes all it takes is starting a conversation about knowledge of resources that your local police may have never known about.

On Tuesday, February 5, MCAH will be hosting the webinar, “Decriminalizing Homelessness: Starting the Conversation.” Champions from Oakland County and Traverse City will speak about how they’ve built real partnerships between community agencies and law enforcement. This webinar will bring together local innovators of processes like crisis intervention teams and street outreach teams. Attendees will get some tips on how to start having conversations with the police and learn about the benefits of building this kind of partnership.

Please join us to hear from:

  • Oakland County Jail Diversion Coordinator with Oakland Community Health Network, Dan Holloway
  • Executive Director of HOPE, Inc. Elizabeth Kelly
  • Street Outreach Coordinator of Goodwill Industries of North Michigan, Ryan Hannon
  • Homeless Liaison Officer with the Traverse City Police Department, Captain Keith Gillis

Register online at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2285179184057155842

By Gaby Abalo, MCAH Public Policy Intern. You can contact her at: gabalo@mihomeless.org. Additional questions or concerns can be directed to Laurel Burchfield // lburchfield@mihomeless.org. 

Increasing Access and Decreasing Barriers to Affordable Rental Units for Michigan Homeless and Low-Income Tenants

MCAH is pleased to announce our 2019-2020 Policy Priorities to guide our state level advocacy.

Everyone should have a place to call home, but Michigan individuals and families experiencing homelessness struggle to find safe, quality homes in our communities. If we are to truly build the strong and vibrant communities where we are all proud to live, then we need to bring in solutions and create housing policies that match housing costs to families’ incomes.

Over the past year, MCAH has been asking our members, advocates, and community leaders, “What do you need to solve the issues of homelessness in your community?” Answers varied based on local need, encompassing new development, changes to zoning, flexibility in federal and state regulations, and more. But the answer that surfaced most often was “We need more tools to engage with landlords and property managers to bring the cost of housing down to what our community needs.”

A large number of Michiganders are renters – over 1,128,000 households in fact. And the majority (66%) of folks exiting homelessness move into rental homes. But as Michigan housing costs continue to spike, wages and incomes are simply not keeping pace. Too many families struggle to find and then afford to rent safe homes – places where we all would feel comfortable raising our children – in so many of our Michigan communities. And for individuals with additional barriers, such as receiving a housing voucher, having a history of evictions or low credit, or returning to the community after incarceration, this challenge can be nearly insurmountable.

We have a collective responsibility to build strong communities for all Michiganders. This means creating places to live where everyone can thrive and access quality education, good jobs, and community connections. Improving access to good rental homes is one step towards solving this puzzle.

Over the next two years, MCAH will dedicate our policy work towards finding state solutions to both increase access and decrease barriers to safe, affordable rental units for individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing their home. Our policy priorities for the next Michigan legislative session include:

  1. Increasing Access to Affordable Rental Units
    • Creating new tools for landlord and property manager engagement:
      • Tax incentives for landlords and property managers to increase rental opportunities
      • Damages or risk mitigation fund for landlords and property managers
  2. Decreasing Barriers to Affordable Rental Units
    • Creating protections for low-income tenants:
      • Eviction expungement
      • Legal protections against housing discrimination, such as source of income discrimination
  3. Strengthening Funding for Homeless Services and Affordable Housing Opportunities
    • Increasing funding within state department for related programs that help individuals access or maintain housing

We look forward to working with our new Governor, legislators, state partners, and community advocates to advance policy solutions to improve the way we address housing in our state.

And we invite you to join us. Creating better housing policy is not an issue that will be resolved solely by lawmakers in Lansing. Strong voices such as yours will make the difference in your community. In 2019, will you become a member of MCAH and advocate for housing solutions that create stronger communities?

 

For more information about our policy priorities and how you can become involved, contact Laurel Burchfield at lburchfield@mihomeless.org.

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.