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Posted on Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Couple struggles to find housing in Washtenaw County as they grapple with unemployment and their pasts

By David Jesse and Tina Reed


Sonny prepares a lunch of peanut butter and jelly for Angeles and Isabel. With his wife staying at a local homeless shelter, Sonny takes care of the kids four days a week while his wife looks for work.

Melanie Maxwell |

Almost every night, Hidie Broskey finds herself lying awake, unable to sleep and unable to slow the thoughts racing through her mind.

Broskey, who is homeless, said she has a lot of worries these days about things like whether she's doing right by her children. She worries about whether state aid will come through, whether she'll find a job and about whether she and her husband will ever be able to provide a good home for the kids.

Providing that home for their kids has been much harder than she and her husband, Sonny Broskey, ever imagined.

Right now, the Broskeys live apart. Sonny, 34, rents a room from a friend in Ypsilanti Township, and Hidie is couch-surfing with friends and family after being asked to leave an Ann Arbor shelter recently. They've been splitting time with their two children, ages 2 and 4, and her 7-year-old child from a previous relationship, while searching for jobs and trying to work out other housing options. They're willing to do whatever it takes to get by and take care of the children, they said.

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"I don’t want my kids growing up the way I did," said Sonny Broskey, referring to times he said he bounced around among foster homes, his mother's home, a state facility and finally the streets while growing up. "I will not have that for my kids," he said. "Goal No. 1 is taking care of my kids.”

The struggle

In this economy, competing for even part-time work has been difficult for many, but the Broskeys have more than just the economy working against them. Hidie Broskey never earned her high school diploma, and Sonny Broskey has a felony record, which means many jobs are closed to him. Even finding an apartment complex or a mobile home park willing to rent him a place has been near impossible, he said.

The Broskeys have been on a waiting list for a federally subsidized apartment for three or four years, he said. They live separately for a number of reasons. For example, he wasn't allowed to live at the shelter where Hidie was staying recently because of his weapons conviction.

“What I’ve been running into a lot is a lot of places won’t let me in because of my felony record,” Broskey said. “Unless an act of God wipes it away, it’s gonna hit me for the rest of my life."


Angeles' helps his dad push his sister Isabel in her stroller as the family goes to pick up their older sister from school.

Melanie Maxwell |

Sonny Broskey's story highlights a problem that many former prisoners face after re-entry. Nationwide, many report limited housing options, according to the Urban Institute in New York. In addition, former prisoners often have low levels of education and work experience and find many employers are hesitant to hire them.

Most people living on a low income do not have a criminal background. But many, like Sonny, have faced a crisis or problem that landed them in trouble - whether that be struggles with uncontrolled psychiatric disorders, a devastating financial event like the loss or a job or mounting medical troubles.

And they generally share a common trait, experts say: They lack a strong safety net. Without such a net from family or other resources, problems can quickly compound. For instance, for someone living paycheck to paycheck, a traffic ticket or an unexpected medical bill could mean a rent check can't be paid.

"Some of it's pure luck - what family were you born in," said Joan Doughty, director of the Community Action Network in Ann Arbor. Support networks provide resources beyond simply monetary help in a pinch, Doughty said. They also connect people to others who can help them, provide educational support and help people learn problem-solving skills. Many who are living on a low income are often not well equipped to advocate for themselves, Doughty said.

Early troubles

Sonny Broskey said his problems began to compound when as a child he was passed among households. "It's a total lack of stability, consistency, care, love, affection," he said. "The education changes up on you. It's really hard on a kid."

He resolved to get out of the system, and when he was 17, he was released from being a ward of the state.


Three months later, he was racing down a road just outside of Lansing in a stolen car trying to elude police. The highway chase ended in a rollover accident and in Sonny Broskey landing in jail for the first time.

He spent about eight months in jail and another five months couch surfing before he learned about a program that helps former wards of the state get housing. He was 19 at the time and began working fast food and movie theater jobs. "I had no idea how to pay bills, use a credit card," he said.

Knowing it was an easy way to make extra cash, he began selling marijuana. "I got greedy," he said. He missed some probation check-ins and finally got in real trouble after he sold marijuana to an undercover cop. It eventually landed him a five-year prison sentence that was increased by four years after he got caught with a prohibited piece of scrap metal he says he used for self-defense in a fight.

That marked a turning point, he said.

“I realized, ‘I’ve got to change something. I’m not doing something right here,” he said.

Trying to start over

He kept his nose clean and got out of prison on Nov. 16, 2003. But Broskey thinks his change in thinking might have come too late.

Many potential employers, such as large discount stores or rental or maintenance companies, won't even call him back after learning about his record. The amount he makes working three nights a week at a local night club is not enough to pay rent, provide for his family and put money away in savings for a place to live.

“It’s been really hard not to sit there and think about a life of crime," Broskey said. He's against breaking the law but can understand why guys who are trying to provide for themselves and their families end up right back in prison.

He thinks if he could just get a better job, maybe something that involved driving and deliveries, he'd be able to take care of his family.


Sonny Browskey closes his eyes as he receives a hug from his 4-year-old son Angeles' as they take a break from wrestling on the couch in the living of the home where Browskey is renting a room. Browskey recently moved back to Michigan from Florida with his wife and three kids and is having trouble finding work.

Melanie Maxwell |

But he can't get a job driving because he doesn't have a license. And he can't get a license until he can pay off more than $3,000 in fees he owes.

Shortly after getting out of prison, he was cited for driving without a license while driving a friend to the hospital and incurred hefty fees. But, reasoning he needed a way to get to work to make money to pay that fine, he drove again and got hit with an additional ticket and additional driver responsibility fees.

"I know there are jobs out there. I could get a job delivering stuff if I can get my license cleared up," he said.

He'd rather be living in Florida. The couple lived in Florida for a few years because there was more work there and folks didn’t seem to care as much about his record, Broskey said.

But it was painful for them to live so far away from two of Hidie Broskey's children from a previous relationship who live in Michigan with their father. So they moved back.

Getting help

The family has found some resources in Washtenaw County. Sonny Broskey praised the assistance available for clothing, for example. About a month ago, the family received emergency food assistance from the state. And Hidie Broskey said local shelters have given her temporary places to stay.

But Hidie Broskey said she struggles living in those situations and abiding by shelter rules after living on her own for so long. She'd received warnings for behavior a few times before finally being asked to leave a shelter recently.

So now she's searching for a new place to stay while also worrying about her job searches and whether she'll get rejected again. She stresses about filling out the paperwork correctly and getting approved for medical coverage through the state. She worries about whether their living situation is too stressful for her children.


Sonny hands his Angeles' a bag of chips as Isabel eats in her high chair in the dining room area they share with another family.

Melanie Maxwell |

Not having the family together makes coping with the stress even more difficult.

"It's really been hard on me to not be with him at night, to not have all of our kids together," she said. "It hurts me too. It hurts the kids. It's hard on the whole family when you have to deal with the emotional ups and downs. All we want to do is be together because we do the best at facing these obstacles when we're together," Hidie Broskey said. "When we're apart it's like the depression sets in … and you just want to pull out your hair sometimes."

Sonny Broskey said he often has to wait days until he gets paid before he can buy certain necessities for his family. Recently, it was some baby wipes for his daughter and a pair of shoes for his son. “As of right now, that’s how my money is coming. I’m able to pay rent each month.”

Hidie Broskey is convinced if some steady housing can just come through, she'll be able to focus on completing her education to improve her chances at a job. For now, too much effort is expounded on things like trying to contact her state case worker and getting medical coverage.

"As soon as I get my GED, then I can go into straight into a career. I'll be able to carry my family and say goodbye to all this state help," she said. "They don't make it easy at all. It's not worth it."

Sonny Broskey dreams of being able to purchase a house he could fix up to make a home for his family.

“As a father, to be away from my kids like that, I feel like I have a big hole in my middle. The things you take for granted … seeing them in the living room, tucking them in at night, waking up in the morning with two extra bodies in the bed because they got scared in the middle of the night. It’s like a party that’s missing."

Tina Reed covers health and the environment for You can reach her at, call her at 734-623-2535 or find her on Twitter @TreedinAA.



Thu, Apr 15, 2010 : 9:10 a.m. - This bombed, big time. Good going.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 5:27 p.m.

So I am going to be working Thursday,and I am going to get my GED 4-20-10 thats when washtenaw is starting up new people for their GED again.I have to work to somehow take care of my family and the every day needs,and working will help me get a home to live in.I dont have family support,and no friends so it gets hard on me when I need to make good choice's.Life has never been easy but I am trying to change everything about my life,so my children will live a better life then I did,and grow up to be more successful then me.So here's the deal on why I can't stay with my husband.He is renting a room from my ex do I need to say anything more about that.And about the shelter now who all has stayed in one before? well I have no criminal history,and I have no trouble following rules,but when you talk to the head people about a staff member who is just begin down right mean to you and your children and does nothing about it,it's not a good day,and further more I left the shelter after my daughter was yelled at by susan the staff member who is down right mean,I left because I was intimidated by Tim Schroeder who is an ex felon who did a way more serious crime then my husband,and this guy didn't even raise his children his wife did so he doesn't no what it's like to have five children all at the same time,so it was leave or be kicked out,and harassed until they drove you crazy not help you get back on your feet.Hidie.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 4:36 p.m.

Hey clara are you a mom?If so how many?My two older girls[12,10]need me up here in this very depressed state.Yes life was easier down in Florida,but when it came time to see them it was anything but easy,it was very hard because of money,and their dad,so I was in Florida for two years,and I was told dailey that I had abandoned my girls,and I would listen to them cry over the phone on how much they needed me to be in the same state with them,so I made a very hard choice to come back and beat the odds.Hidie.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 4:23 p.m.

I am not pregnant.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 4:21 p.m.

News flash this is Hidie and unless you live with me,and went with me to my doctors appointment,stop spreading rumors big liar.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 3:32 p.m.

Nobody knows what makes a good parent? I've got a list. You probably have one too. The first on the list is to know that you can provide for your children BEFORE they come into the world. Then, how about being able to feed and house them? Educate them. Provide stability. Be a good example and role model. Make good decisions. That's the beginning of my list. Pretty basic stuff.


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 1:09 p.m.

Halima..that question has been bothering me as I follow this story and comments... "why can't Mrs. Broskey live with Mr. Broskey at the friend's house where he rents? I feel like maybe there is more to this story?


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

@ Reality Bizz - what do you mean about the crackers? Can you give us more information on the problem with the shelter rules? I asked about this from the beginning, since you know the family maybe you can give some clarification. Also, why can't Mrs. Broskey live with Mr. Broskey at the friend's house where he rents?


Wed, Apr 14, 2010 : 7:53 a.m.

Hey beaumont, news flash, Hidie is not pregnant. And a news flash for the folks looking down their noses from their perfect world, being rich or well to do isnt what makes a good parent. What makes a good parent? Nobody knows. There are so many children that grow up troubled for a variety of reasons. I make no excuses for this family, and Im sure they wouldnt want others making them for them. The point of this article was to point out Washtenaw Counties hidden poor. Now is it that our community has become so stuck up they cant see past their own iniquities, or is it that the harsh reality of sitting back and doing nothing positive, burden your soul? How would you like to be told you and your children at risk of being on the streets because you have a pack of crackers you forget about in your coat pocket? How would you like to be told you cant live with your family because of a mistake made as a youth, but yet the shelter has staff members that have a record making you look like a boyscout? Yes there are rules and laws to live by. There are also basic human rights. Like the right to forget about having something in your pocket. Like the right to not be discriminated against for any reason. Several of the statements i have seen here are very prejudicial and based on opinion and not fact. Our society seems content to just judge others, and poison the world with negativity. Sitting within their own egos. Rather than living in spirit. The Broskey family is asking for no hand outs. They are looking for the resources that will enable them to be successful by their own means. Sonny has a resume, education, experience, and a felony record. Statistics show that more people are successful when being employed with a job that match their skills and abilities. They also show that a vast majority of those jobs will not hire an individual with a felony record. So there is definitely a major road block for him. With or without a drivers license. Lets show them where the jobs are, where the housing is, where the affordable day care is, etc. etc.. I promise you that both Sonny and Hidie are workers and willing to earn everything they get. Just need the opportunity to show it.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 4:45 p.m.

and another child on the way.. and yes i know the family


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

"I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." This couple was not ready to have children. The children are the only ones involved in this story who deserve our sympathy and assistance.

Life in Ypsi

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 9:19 a.m.

I'm not excusing bad choices by any means, but Sonny was in foster care as a kid. He grew up in an unstable environment and obviously did not get the tools needed to be successful as an adult. He repeated the cycle. I see people responded that about feeling sorry for his kids. Will you feel sorry for them when they become adults and repeat the same cycle? As I said in another comment there's a fine line between help and enabling. Sometimes it's just too hard to make that call. All we can do is continue to offer resources as a community to empower people to get out of the mess they are in. They can take the help or leave it, but there comes a time when people need to start becoming accountable for their lives, especially after they have continually used community resources for help. A lot of people fall on hard times and seek help a few times and go on about their lives. Also a lot of people continue to be content on depending on the system for their needs. This is just not an easy problem to solve because there are so many differing factors. The biggest factor contributing factor to making bad decisions is growing up in an unstable home.

mike from saline

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 7:57 a.m.

Note to Clara; Please stop making sense!It drives the "forward think- ing, progressive folks crazy.

pam behjatnia

Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 11:35 p.m.

okay. and the point is? beyond the obvious - what is the point? oh. to touch the reader? seriously? i grew up poor. i was homeless. i put myself through school. dealing drugs is a choice. having kids is a choice. not playing by the rules is a choice. the broskys have chosen over and over and over. dont use them as an example to dumb down people struggling into lifetime and generational welfare cases. the broskys made bad hoices and continue to make bad choices. choices. and they will make them - regardless.

pam behjatnia

Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 11:27 p.m.

i am sorry for the kids. the adults are to blame. i am also sorry that i am paying for this mess.


Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 11:54 a.m.

It's sad that so many of these comments are so negative and seem to blame the Broskey family for their situation. Sure, maybe they could have done some things differently, but they are where they are right now. The article didn't tell us if the family is using any resources available to them except for the homeless shelter which didn't work out. Where are they getting food for their children? Are there any programs to help the dad find a job and, when he does, who will care for the kids when he is at work? The article needs more information. But just look at those kids in the photos - they obviously love their dad and he wants to provide for them. With such a large community of readers, doesn't anyone have a positive suggestion? What could we do to help?

mike from saline

Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

If not for the children, who should realy care? It's been my obser- vation, throughout my life, that people who are frequently described as, "less fortunate", are in fact, victims of there own poor choices. A lot of people make mistakes. No one is perfect. This couple seems to have made a career of poor choices. The vast majority of Americans are kind, and have no problem helping folks who have fallen on hard times, through no fault of there own, and are genarally willing to give a person a second chance [sometimes more] for mistakes. I can't realy see any evidence that this couple has learned a thing! Where am I wrong?


Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 12:33 a.m.

I happen to know the Broskey family very well. One thing I can tell you is that yes they have made some bad choices. Yes they made mistakes. Like trusting the family courts system to do the right thing. Like having faith in humanity. I often wonder if the people that look down their noses so easily at the less fortunate would do it so easily if the roles were reversed. You dont know the finer details of this families lives to pass judgement so easily. Sonny much like many others had a great job, as a mason, and was layed off. Why dont you learn more about this family, and then maybe if you cant find a splinter in your eye, judge them.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 9:29 p.m.

I agree with so much of what has been said about bad choices and behavior. Yes, it was not wise to move from Florida to Ann Arbor without lining up jobs first. Yes, jobs would be easier to find if past behavior showed some responsibility such as showing up as required when on probation, such as getting a GED and if necessary seek help for the skills needed to complete the GED. One other thing that got to me was the fact that driving a car without a license also means driving a care without insurance. That means that you and I are paying more on our uninsured and under-insured driver benefits that protect us if someone such as that crashes into us and possibly severely injures people. What is it about not having a driver's license that he forgot? Was the friend too sick or injured to drive himself to the hospital? Then ask someone else to drive the friend or call a cab or the police or in a life and death situation, call EMT. To me, no means no. The court had said "no" regarding driving. He drove. And that wasn't when he was 17. He was all grown up and a father when he broke the law. An employer might see that as a warning that he might steal for a friend or for his children. By the way, baby wipes are a convenience, but not a necessity. It is possible to clean and change a baby and protect tender skin at a lower cost than using baby wipes.

Chase Ingersoll

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 8:31 p.m.

I was on staff of a homeless shelter for two years and have worked with alcoholics, addicts, sex offenders and felons for more than a decade. Their situation is the parable of the talents, and they are the servant who produces nothing from the resources/opportunity that he was given, and instead complains for not having been given more and accuses the master of being ill-tempered. I cannot anticipate these folks' situation improving until they develop an "attitude of gratitude" for what they already have and an appreciation for the generosity and opportunity that is available to them in Washtenaw County. If I owned a business and had a manager that hired this guy, or his wife, I would have to fire my manager.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 8:17 p.m.

It's really too bad the people writing the article couldn't find a couple that have done everything right but are still struggling. Maybe housing is a problem in this area but when you write an article and use people like this as examples of people having problems no one cares. It's very obvious to everyone reading this article why these 2 aren't making it, haven't made it in the past and will probably never get it figured out in the future


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 6:40 p.m.

OK, here's another way to think about it: The children in this story have this couple for parents. By the time they get to school, it's possible they won't be as well-nourished as some kids, or won't have had the same medical or dental care as some kids. It's likely that their mother and father did not have as much time to spend teaching them ABCs and numbers, how to read simple words, and maybe colors and seasons. And so the children get to school already behind. It's likely that, because their parents are poor, they will live in a neighborhood and attend school where most others are poor. That's the culture and community they will know. It's possible that the children will grow up to be fine citizens who hold down well-paying jobs and have stable families. But statistics suggest that is less likely for these children, than for children from a family where the parents have jobs and live in stable housing. Instead, they will follow a path similar to the parents. One possibility is that the children end up in foster homes, and although that is an alternative the evidence indicates that most foster children do not end up well. So here's the question: what's more expensive to us as taxpaying citizens? Should we provide services to the Broskeys targeted at helping them raise their children? Or should we let them suffer to the fullest the consequences of their mistakes, and in turn let their children suffer as well?


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 6:28 p.m.

Tina, I think you are kind-hearted but a little nieve. How can she concentrate on her GED when she is worried about food and shelter? How can she NOT? How can she bring children into this world and not have proper housing and food for them?? They don't have a choice here - they are going to be brought up by parents that are looking to others to help them instead of helping themselves. Did they think about the children when they broke the rules and got kicked out of the shelter?? Sorry, I am not feeling too sympathetic.

David Jesse

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 3:43 p.m.

@Sandy castle: A couple of notes to your question. First, existing support services are being swamped and the people who run these services say its hard to work with someone who doesn't know where they are living. It's hard to concentrate on studying for the GED when you literally don't know in some cases where there are going to lay their heads down later that night. If you know where you are sleeping and that for sure you'll have food, easy to concentrate on other things... don;t have those and that's all you think about... Solutions pointed out in the story "Housing worries an increasing problem for Ann Arbor's poor population" include increasing the availability of affordable housing and increasing supportive housing to those who need additional assistance. But the Broskey's case, it is more complicated. They feel like if they can just figure out a stable, permanent housing situation - which they currently don't have - they can support themselves. But they also need to figure out way to get immediate food, health and clothing assistance, figure out ways to solve problems like paying off old fines and getting the GED while figuring out a way to make a steady living. They say they feel it's often quite difficult to figure out what is available and how to get it. They were making many missteps and expressed feelings of being overwhelmed and frustrated. From our reporting, we know these are not uncommon feelings. What is the answer for families like that? There are programs in Ann Arbor, such as the Community Action Network and Avalon Housing that provide supportive services. But is there a great enough availability of services? Or are there other solutions that haven't been considered here yet?

Sandy Castle

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 2:58 p.m.

Tina - I'm a little naive on this subject. When you state " Not everyone is lucky enough to get the access to resources we want in society today, and it benefits us all to help out those who didn't." What other resources should the Broskey's be offered? She has shelter, she has access to GED classes, there are places that offer meals. I understand that she doesn't have a safety net of relatives, etc., but aren't there support services at the shelters and some of the other agencies that work with homeless people? So when you say that it benefits us all to help out, what more should we be providing or how should we be helping?

Sandy Castle

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 2:46 p.m.

I'm a little unclear about why Mrs. Broskey can't find time to get her GED. She has a place to stay and it says she's looking for work, so I'm assuming she isn't working at this time. I can't believe she's spending 8 hours a day/6 or 7 days a week looking for a job, though. Is she responsible for taking care of the children so she's unable to go to classes? I do realize that she has a lot of worries and stressors in her life and I feel badly for her, but at some point, only she can help herself to move forward. She's receiving shelter and I know there are agencies that will assist her in finding a job once she receives her GED. And I'm guessing that GED classes are available to her. So at this point, how much more assistance does she want? Society can't take the GED classes for her.

Tina Reed

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 1:47 p.m.

Thanks for the comments, everyone. A point I'd like to make: Experts that David and I have spoken with have noted many folks who live on a low income now also grew up in a low income household. They may not have ever received the life and problem solving skills that a household with a larger income might. Think about the Broskey's story on a broader level: How many families are struggling for a variety of different reasons including poor choices, mental illness or just plain bad luck? How much more difficult is it for an individual to earn their GED when they are also concerned about housing and food? Not everyone is lucky enough to get the access to resources we want in society today, and it benefits us all to help out those who didn't.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 12:36 p.m.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could fix everyone's problems? I think Clara is correct in saying that they have not been responsible by trying to help themselves. Get the GED. Stop the bad behaviors so that you can make a home for your children. Sonny says his problems began when he was passed around growing up. Isn't that, in a sense, the life that his children are getting? Not knowing where they are going to live? Feeling sorry for them isn't going to help here. They need to get their stuff together and stop making excuses for why things are they way they are.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

Tina, "get back on their feet," is only possible if they were previously 'on their feet". From the article Mr. has never been on his feet. and Mrs. seems to have numerous deficiencies in her life. If she cannot follow the simple rules at the shelter and he can't even report to a probation officer as directed, how can either be expected to hold a job down? If I were to look at these two for a job, the criminal offenses would only be the first problem. I am sorry, but maybe they would be better off going back to Florida where Mr. can find work, then they can get stable housing and Mrs. can explore getting her GED. Maybe after a year or two, with Mr. steadily employed so he has something positive to put on a resume or job application and Mrs. has at least a GED they could try to relocate here. Mr. admits that Florida would be better. And they could all live together, thereby providing a more stable environment for the children living with them. And break that "he generational cycle of poverty" and reduce the psychological trauma the children are experiencing.

Matt Cooper

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : noon

Clara: You said "It is not my, or the US government's responsibility to continue to increase our 'safety net'." Perhaps not, depending on how compassionate you are as a citizen of this great country. However, we as a society of civilized people, do in fact have a responsibility to take care of the poor and downtrodden and to provide at least the basics required for their survival. We cannot simply turn our backs to people like these, look the other way and say "Oh, to hell with you!" and let them rot in a gutter like some form of refuse. Would you feel that same way if this was your son? Or your brother? If you lack the compassion to at least understand that famlilies like this need help and we, as a society, must be the ones to provide it, I feel truly sorry for you. Surely Mr. Broskey has made his share of mistakes as a young man, but he's also done his time and paid for those mistakes.

Tina Reed

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

One of the points made today in the article "Housing worries an increasing problem for Ann Arbor's poor population" ( is the impact the housing instability can have on children. This problem matters because housing and resource instability for children can create "emotional trauma", can impact their education and ultimately hurt their chances for success in the future. This is what is often referred to as the generational cycle of poverty. Beyond thinking about helping a family in trouble for altruistic reasons, though, many experts have continually pointed to the financial incentive the system has to help those struggling to secure basic resources. In the end, it is cheaper to help keep people in stable housing than it is to pay for the increase in mental health services, handle the increased crime rates linked to need and to handle the decreased tax base and drops in quality of life a community can sustain. The sooner a family is able to successfully get back on their feet, the sooner they are able to contribute to society. When a person loses their home to foreclosure, it's not just too bad for them, but too bad for their neighbors. In recent months, we've seen the impact this can have on housing values and the increased strain it can have on the local tax base of a community as well as the strain it can put on the community's safety net. You are correct about the fact a lot of people without criminal backgrounds are searching for work right now. With the current economy, many entry-level or part time jobs are being occupied by folks who have higher levels of education or work experience than in previous years. The extra competition for these jobs can push those with lower levels of education and experience, who might typically secure employment in these jobs, right out of the work force. Local experts have told us this is happening here in Washtenaw County. I'd like to note recently, Mary King - the community coordinator for the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative of Washtenaw County - made a presentation about Washtenaw County having the highest prisoner return rate in the state of Michigan. She credited this, in part, to a lack of opportunities that are available to ex-convicts. "Her presentation showed 82 percent of businesses now require criminal background checks, and only 12.5 percent will hire someone with a felony conviction."


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 10:41 a.m.

The world and life is not fair. It is not my, or the US government's responsibility to continue to increase our 'safety net'. There is an opinion article today about a man who has worked all his life and lost his job. He has no criminal history and has advanced his education. Why should we be expected o help the Broskey's more when they continue to fail at juvenile court supervision, probation, shelter/free housing? There is a point when they need to take responsibility for their actions or lack thereof and change their behavior and method of thinking. If they continue to consider themselves victims and that society owes them all these free services then they are doomed to be stuck in this cycle of desperation. Many entry level employers will hire felons. But the felon must first apply to those low level jobs. Remember that there are lots of other, non felons, non repeat felons, and non probation violator felons also looking for employment.

Tina Reed

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

The Broskey's have been very candid in sharing about mistakes they have made in their past. Hidie Broskey expressed frustration that it was so difficult for her to live in the shelter situation and was frustrated about the fact she kept getting into trouble. That was due in part to rules she felt were unfair and due in part to her own behavior, which she regretted. A big part of this family's story is the hope they have to turn things around and the obstacles they encounter in their lives that have made it harder. This is where that hidden personal safety net is such a big deal. Sonny Broskey was arrested for the first time when he was 17. Someone else who had a stronger family safety net before that happened might have received financial and legal assistance, as well as resources to hold him accountable and send him down a new path. Or he might have already been headed down a much different path rather than hanging out with the wrong crowd on that streets the evening he stole the car. The loss of a job or home or making a major financial or legal mistake is not usually so devastating for an individual who has family members and friends with the resources to help them out. This is not to say breaking the law is ever justified or that those who lack a strong safety net in their early lives are necessarily trapped in a generational cycle of poverty. It also does not mean those who have that safety net will necessarily succeed. But it points out the fact the playing field certainly does not start out even. That can make a huge impact on the kind of resources a person can provide for their families for the rest of their lives.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 8:56 a.m.

The articles in this series often leave readers with significant questions. In this case, we learn that Mr. Broskey is renting a room from a friend, and that he can't live in the shelter with his wife because of a previous felony conviction. Well, why can't she live there with him? That's a pretty important question. Another question: she was evicted from the shelter for "rule violations" - what were they? A reader would like to evaluate whether those rules were unreasonable and community standards were not followed in making the rules, or whether Mrs. Broskey made poor choices and no changes are required to the shelter rules. Further, why is the story illustrated only with pictures of Mr. Broskey and two of the children? If the father of the other girl did not give permission for her name and photo to be shown, at least she could be shown from the back, with a note about why the name and photo were not included. And since Mrs. Broskey was available to be interviewed, if there is a reason she could not be photographed, this should have been included in the story. This series on an important and valuable subject could be made stronger by providing more information in each story.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

Do not have children until you can take care of them. I waited until I was thirty and had money in the bank even though my wife and I wanted them earlier.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 7:42 a.m.

Where to begin? They had employment and housing in Florida but moved to Michigan to be closer to 2 of Hidies kids? It sounds like if they stayed in Florida they could come to Michigan to visit and see her kids more often than they are now. Hidie Broskey never earned her high school diploma, and Sonny Broskey has a felony record well yes, no high school diploma will limit your employment options. Hidie was evicted from the shelter for repeated rule violations? Hum, so there are some behavior problems here. Then there is Sonny and his his weapons conviction and he was racing down a road just outside of Lansing in a stolen car trying to elude police. The highway chase ended in a rollover and missed some probation check-ins so he cant follow simple directions, like reporting and you want an employer to hire him and expect him to work every day? sold marijuana then driving without a license and more than $3,000 in fees