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
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.
Public Policy Champion
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.
Public Policy Champion
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
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.”
Legislative Action Champion
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.