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Posted on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 3:50 p.m.

Ann Arbor to provide $159,000 for emergency shelter for homeless

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor's growing homeless population will have a few more warm beds to sleep in this winter, city officials announced Thursday night.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve a $30,500 contract with the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County and a $129,000 contract with the Interfaith Hospitality Network to provide short-term housing and shelter with support services to homeless individuals and families living in Ann Arbor.

The $159,500 appropriation will come from the Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund.


Camp Take Notice, shown here, is one of the homeless camps in Ann Arbor.

File photo

The Office of Community Development, which appeared before the council to make the request, has been working with nonprofit providers to develop a short-term response to the unprecedented rate of homelessness in the community.

"Sometimes government isn't here to solve all the problems at once, but we can focus on crisis intervention," said Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward. "We're not solving the problem. What we're doing is crisis intervention."

Mary Jo Callan, community development director, said the city has experienced a sharp rise in homeless people needing help from the local sheltering system, and there appears to be an increased incidence of homeless encampments in and around Ann Arbor. She said the coming winter creates a potentially dangerous situation for those sleeping outside in tents or their cars.

City officials said they know that the emergency measure is only a stopgap solution and permanent affordable housing - not temporary shelter - is what's really needed to address the problem of homelessness.

"It's not going to solve our issues by any means, but it does begin to scratch the surface a little bit," said Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward.

Callan said the local emergency shelter system is working to ensure that individuals, families, and youth experiencing homelessness have access to needed shelter and support this winter. The system currently maintains 189 beds for those experiencing homelessness, but demand exceeds that capacity.

Using the funds appropriated by the city, along with other contributions expected from the county and the Downtown Development Authority, the Shelter Association plans to increase its annual rotating winter shelter to provide an additional 50 spaces for homeless individual adults needing emergency overnight shelter.

Half of those spaces will be provided by adding cots to the second floor of the Delonis Center, and an additional 25 spaces will be provided using space within local faith congregations on a rotating basis. The extra beds will be offered from Dec. 1 through March 31.

"That is just about a doubling of what the homeless shelter does," Mayor John Hieftje said at Thursday's meeting.
For families experiencing homelessness, IHN will work with Avalon Housing and other local landlords to provide eight year-long housing vouchers. Those subsidies with support services will maximize the ability of parents to move beyond homelessness while providing safety and stability for their young children.

Callan said the community is receiving about $800,000 in Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds over the next two years to help people who are homeless or at imminent risk of losing their housing.

At the start of Thursday's council meeting, local resident Seth Best spoke of his plight with homelessness and joblessness last winter in Ann Arbor.

"I was homeless last year and utilized the services there at the Delonis Center," he said. "With winter rapidly approaching and as someone who did spend last winter out in the cold ... I know the great need that they have to have more beds available."

Brian Nord, a Camp Take Notice supporter and advocate for the homeless, also told city officials he appreciated their support - but he called it a stopgap measure that doesn't provide a long-term solution.

Officials say the challenging economic climate has had broad-reaching negative impacts on Ann Arbor residents. The local poverty rate, including college students, is nearly 25 percent, and the unemployment rate is 9.3 percent, Callan reported.

"I think it's time that we started to look outside of the box on how we address this," said Council Member Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, encouraging the city to look into other partnerships beyond what currently exists.

Hieftje also encouraged Ann Arbor's faith-based community to step up and double the amount of help it gives and provide more beds this winter.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 3:15 p.m.

Cool. Layoff some firefighters and don't replace any of the 24 police officers who retired, and you could give the homeless more, because they pay so much in taxes.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 1:24 p.m.

Avalon housing evicted many of the tenants at Gateway, one by one I watched my neighbors being forced out. I find it ironic that they would be helping with homeless now.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 11:52 a.m.

This is wonderful. Let's take this one step further. How about challenge those who have to match the city's funding for those who have not. I know I would if I wasn't one of the 'have nots'. For those who can not relate, be glad that you can not relate. I used to think along the line of 'voiceofreason' when it came to all the fighting in the Middleast between Israeli's and Palastenienes (sp?). I've spent time with Israeli's - very nice people. Recently I spent time with a family whose members are from Palastine but most liver elsewhere (Canada, US, Jordan). They made me feel more welcomed than any family I have ever sat with. Sometimes you have to experience more to change your views.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 8:02 a.m.

"f we are going to spend a single penny on these individuals, it should be money for a bus ticket down to Florida for the winter." While that might seem harsh to many, from a strictly pragmatic point it makes some sense. If your going to live outside, for whatever reason, its a whole lot easier to survive 50 degree nights than 17 degree nights. I say that as one who's fiance has a brother who died of hypothermia on a park bench.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 11:14 p.m.

If we are going to spend a single penny on these individuals, it should be money for a bus ticket down to Florida for the winter. Maybe they will like it so much that they end up staying.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 8:36 p.m.

from the previous article profiling the people in the picture. One was preggers by a man that had been asked to leave the shelter for an anger/attitude problem. Other people didn't like the strictness/rules of the local shelter, whatever that means. emergency money? hmmm. maybe they would have had MORE of that if they hadn't bought the stupid Y building in the first place.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 7:20 p.m.

Reserch has shown the more comfortable you make the homeless, the more that will show up. It's called enabling, ask any drug addict or partner of a drug addict what the effects of enabling does to help.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 7:02 p.m.

Research has shown that securing the homeless permanent/semi-permanent housing FIRST and then providing services is actually the best model to prevent chronic homelessness. The temporary shelter model is a band-aid solution that does not work.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 6:38 p.m.

@cinnabar7071 You make a very good point. In any case, the mayor has vowed to approach the county commissioners and ask for their help. Should be an interesting discussion.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 6:32 p.m.

Washtenaw County doesn't have any money, what are they going to vote on?

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 5:42 p.m.

According to the Shelter Association's Web site,"To enter the Night Shelter, one must commit to working on obtaining sustainable housing and be clean and sober at entry and willing to try to remain so for the duration of his/her stay." On another topic, the DDA did kick in $20,000 toward the effort (which we previously reported they were going to do). Here's the Chronicle's story: Looks like the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners will be asked to take a vote on this issue next. Stay tuned.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 4:50 p.m.

Some of the folks this will help to have a warm place to sleep could be your neighbors who lost their house or your cousin who lost his job and ran out of family members who had room for him. These are tough times. Give people a break.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 4:42 p.m.

Will this shelter house the ones who "don't like" the other shelters because they can't meet the sobriety requirements?


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 4:36 p.m.

Build it and they will come! From all over the country.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 4:35 p.m.

"if you build it they will come"


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 4:23 p.m.

My position is on this problem is we have the technology that we could feed and clothe and house and give reasonable, minimal health care to every single person on this planet. Mitchell Ozog