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Chelsea Nelson, MCAH Board Member, takes us on a review of 2017 and shares with us her excitement for the year ahead.

As we near the end of 2017, we at the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness want to take time to reflect on the year’s accomplishments, as well as thank those who’ve made this year such a success. As a Board Member on MCAH, I can’t begin to thank the team who work diligently every day to make the organization such a powerful force striving every minute to make a positive impact within the state and individual lives. It is truly an honor to be associated with MCAH in any capacity.

Advocating to End Homelessness in Michigan

A few of the most noteworthy accomplishments over the past year have been embedded in policy efforts, including the 1st Annual Homelessness Advocacy Day in which we brought 70 advocates to the capital to educate over 70 legislative state offices on homeless-related issues.

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Here, our Michigan advocates introduced our policy priorities:

  • Securing state ID’s which are essential for achieving economic and service securities;
  • Decriminalization of homelessness in which MCAH is exploring ways to improve relationships between those experiencing homelessness and the criminal justice system;
  • The urgent need for strategic solutions to address the need and lack of availability of affordable housing; and
  • Increased funding for homeless services.

In all, the 1st Annual Homelessness Advocacy Day was an informative and proactive success! This year we saw victories in Michigan as we advocated for an increase in per diem funding for emergency shelters from $12 to $16 a day. But despite the pressure from state and national advocates calling for increased federal HUD and housing program funding, Congress has yet to pass a budget that meets the needs of those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. We continue to voice our concerns regarding slashes to funding through the budget and the tax bill.

Celebrating Champions and Honoring Personal Stories

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Deborah Hendren and Elizabeth Kelly, representatives for the Oakland County ID Task Force, receive their award for Public Policy Champions at the 2017 Breakfast of Champions.

The annual Breakfast of ChampionsInvisible People and Authentic Storytelling event offered words from Invisible People’s inspirational speaker, Mark Horvath. The event recognized the work of three incredible champions: Denise Dunn, Housing Services MidMichigan – Community Champion, Oakland County ID Task Force – Public Policy Champion, and Lysne Tait and Amy Stephenson, Helping Women Period – Volunteer Champion. We continue to thank these individuals for the incredible support and work they provide.

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Mark Horvath of Invisible People speaks to attendees of the 2017 Breakfast of Champions.

We also had a rousing rally at the capital this year titled “How Housing Changed My Life.” Ten speakers with personal experience of homelessness told their stories in front of the state capitol and called for increased federal funding for HUD and programs that support housing and homelessness services. We’ve shared these inspirational moments on our YouTube Channel, so all can hear the powerful stories.

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Antria, a storyteller at the “How Housing Changed My Life” rally addresses the crowd from the state capitol steps in Lansing.

Reaching Decision Makers

Lastly, one of the more notable 2017 moments was the Homelessness Sleep Out in which four state legislators, a locally elected official and other stakeholders joined us to experience one night without a home. We partnered with local agencies and individuals with personal experience of homelessness for an informative program and then sent decision-makers and thought leaders out into the cold November to sleep outside. This evening proved insightful as to the realistic challenges many homeless individuals may encounter, and we applaud all of those who participated as a step towards understanding more of the grave issue of homelessness.

2017 Homelessness Sleep Out

Participants of the 2017 Homelessness Sleep Out learn more about street outreach from the Lansing area PATH team.

Looking Forward

With eyes on 2018, we look towards many opportunities that offer inspirational change. Our mission to create a sustainable statewide voice and the infrastructure and systemic change needed to empower communities to end homelessness is challenged by congressional threats to reduce funding and eliminate programming for essential homelessness and housing services. We will bring the expertise of our partners and the results of our HMIS data collection to Lansing and DC to educate decision makers about the funding and policies we need to enact lasting change. We will proactively seek to bring in best practices, resources, and examples of legislation that has been successful in other states and communities to Lansing and work with legislative champions to replicate these successes in Michigan. Furthermore, we hope to empower communities via webinars, trainings, and activities and events encouraging legislative engagement.

By using our HMIS data and personal storytellers, we hope to show what homelessness really looks like and how it can truly impact anyone. Ultimately, we believe that everyone deserves a home and that families, seniors, and youth who are living on the streets, in their cars, or in shelters deserve the same respect and dignity as everyone else. We know that we can end homelessness if we work together to create better policies, provide better access to resources, and find solutions that work for everyone. Our efforts, combined with our partners’ work that connects individuals directly to assistance, is creating lasting change so that not only are we helping those who currently are homeless, but we’re making sure that no one has to be homeless in Michigan again. Your support makes a long-term difference in the way we address homelessness.

Not only are we helping those who currently are homeless, but we’re making sure that no one has to be homeless in Michigan again.

An end of year donation, no matter $5 or $500 provides such a high level of support that has a lasting impact on the organization and the homeless community as a whole. We ask that you remember MCAH in your final push for the year’s donations. Please visit bit.ly/GiveMIHomeless to make a tax-deductible donation and learn about MCAH membership that supports such a paramount cause.

Thank you again to all of those who have aided in MCAH’s 2017 success, and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves for an even more impactful year ahead!

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By Chelsea Nelson, MCAH Board Member and Co-Chair of MCAH Communications and Fund Development Committee.

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