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Posted on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Endowment campaign considered to expand affordable housing services in Washtenaw County

By Amy Biolchini

The Washtenaw Housing Alliance is considering a campaign to raise money for a $17 million endowment that experts hope could end homelessness in Washtenaw County.

The endowment would provide long-term funding for new units of permanent supportive housing, a type of housing that includes services to keep homeless individuals on track.

The county already has 230 units of this type of housing. Julie Steiner, executive director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, said the county could end homelessness with the additional 500 units.


Jim Latoski from Statewide Interiors of Ithaca, prepares a door frame for painting at one of the three-bedroom town homes at Carrot Way Apartments in Ann Arbor, which is run by Avalon Housing. file photo

“We know what it takes to end homelessness. We know that this housing is critical,” Steiner said.

More than 4,700 people in Washtenaw County experience homelessness each year, according to the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. A number of them are chronically homeless — and the only way to make sure those individuals stay in housing is through permanent supportive housing, Steiner said.

Funding the construction of affordable housing units is not the issue, Steiner said.

Permanent supportive housing requires support services from agencies. Funding for those services comes from government grants and programs — which Steiner said have become increasingly difficult to acquire.

Permanent supportive housing is provided by organizations like Avalon Housing, Steiner said. The housing is different from Section 8 vouchers with private landlords, Steiner said.

Steiner said the services help address underlying contributing factors to homelessness, such as mental health issues and recurring health problems. “You’re meeting people with what their needs are,” Steiner said.

It costs about $5,000 per year per household to provide the support services, Steiner said. It’s also about six times cheaper to have homeless individuals in permanent supportive housing than in shelters, she said.

The Ann Arbor Community Foundation and the St. Joseph Mercy Health System have each contributed $1 million toward a Washtenaw Housing Alliance endowment for supportive housing.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners founded the Sustainable Revenue for Supportive Housing Services Task Force in 2007 to find ways to permanently fund the expansion of those affordable housing services.

After a year, the task force came up with a three-part plan: Educate the public about the need, pass a millage and then create an endowment to sustain the revenue.

However, as the recession hit, passing a millage became less and less likely and it was never proposed, Steiner said.

“People were not going to increase their taxes for something like ending homelessness,” Steiner said. “The notion of continuing to move forward with an endowment is still out there, but it’s a very big dream and effort.”

The Washtenaw Housing Alliance has hired the consultant firm Hammond and Associates to evaluate the relative success and potential structure of an endowment campaign, Washtenaw County Commissioner Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Township, announced at a recent board meeting.

Brabec announced the $17 million figure as a possible amount for the endowment at the meeting, noting raising that money would be “quite the undertaking.”

"The endowment is an important endeavor for our community in addressing homelessness in our area,” Brabec said.

The exact details of what the $17 million would be able to accomplish is what the consultant will determine, Steiner said.

“This is not the normal kind of fundraising that’s been done in this community,” Steiner said in reference to the sizable $17 million figure. “We really have to move slow and make sure there’s support.”

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Andrew Smith

Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

To be quite realistic, one ought to say that the goal is to drastically reduce homelessness, not to end it. It is impossible to end homelessness, but we ought to try to reduce it as much as possible.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 10:11 p.m.

Andrew, sadly I agree. as long as substance abuse continues, so will homelessness, not that this is the only reason for being homeless but I've seen a lot of it.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:34 p.m.

As a former Avalon tenant of 13+ years, I hope that none of this money goes to them. During the years of my tenancy, I saw enough of the way these people treat their tenants to have serious doubts about them being "supportive housing." I will never rent from them again. Madeleine Baier, a.k.a.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

oops, a.k.a. Mady


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

We do not need to provide housing for every homeless person in SE MI. We already have far too many here due to the never-ending handouts from well-meaning people. If this continues Ann Arbor will be flooded with homeless, and dominated by "projects."

Joel A. Levitt

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

This could be a very good idea provided that some of the funds will be spent on effective rehabilitation of the currently homeless - a la Alpha house.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

This article does a poor job of explaining what happens to the drunk or panhandler, or mentally ill homeless, not to say many of the Camp Take Notice folks. Will this sort of housing cover ALL of them? It hints that it may, when it says "permanent supportive housing" Please explain more. Details, please.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

There are few details as to what the endowment would be able to support at this point. Julie Steiner did share with me that permanent supportive housing is the best way for agencies to house chronically homeless individuals who need those support services to manage some of the factors that contribute to their homeless condition -- including the mental and physical health of the individual.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

I just wish the city would take care of the current housing for low income families. The city housing on Platt Rd. is tacky with no improvements being done.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

We will never end homelessness.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

As I recall the $10 million dollar homeless shelter on Huron was also supposed to "end homelessness in Washtenaw County".


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:36 p.m.

Actually, the majority of the people using their services are now from Wayne county.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

A showcase for liberals


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

It's sad to hear that funding for support services is difficult to find. These services are crucial for keeping the chronically homeless housed. Kudos to the Ann Arbor Community Foundation and St. Joseph Mercy Health System for seeing this need and ponying up!

Local Yocal

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

Build more Habitant for Humanity housing. Home ownership.