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Posted on Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

The Education Project has increasing need to serve more than 700 homeless students in Washtenaw County

By Lisa Carolin

An area organization needs help serving its increasing client base — homeless youths in Washtenaw County.

More than 700 Washtenaw County youth up to age 20 have been homeless since the start of the current school year. That's a 30 percent to 40 percent increase from last year, which was a 40 percent increase from the year before.


Volunteers including members of the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Morning Edition help to wrap gifts and write gift cards for the more than 700 homeless youths in Washtenaw County.

Lisa Carolin | For

The Education Project for homeless youths works to keep those whose families don't have a fixed regular nighttime residence, such as those living in motels, shelters and cars, in the same school district all year.

The Education Project is based at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District on Wagner Road in Ann Arbor.

"We focus on educational needs and the items students need to be comfortable to succeed in school," said Peri Stone-Palmquist, program manager for The Education Project, adding that changing schools during the year can cause kids to fall behind by four to six months.

This holiday season, The Education Project is reaching out to people in Washtenaw County for donations following a 30 percent cut in state support that began in October. In addition, Stone-Palmquist says that unemployment, under-employment and lack of affordable housing have added to the needs of people in the county in the past few years.

"Half of the homeless people in Washtenaw County are families with young children," said Julie Steiner, executive director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. "The need is overwhelming and continues to rise all the time because we don't have enough affordable housing in this county."

For a single parent with two children to afford housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, clothing and other personal care in Michigan, the income needed is $21.33 an hour, Steiner said. In Washtenaw County, the most expensive county for housing in the state, that figure is $27.61 per hour.

The Education Project always needs new or gently used (and cleaned) winter coats, new packages of socks and underwear, black backpacks, zippered pencil pouches and solar-powered scientific calculators. People can also sign up to be part of the Angel Network, through which Stone-Palmquist communicates unusual needs that arise, everything from bicycles to alarm clocks, and anyone who chooses to can donate. To participate, contact Stone-Palmquist at

Currently a drive is underway for winter coats of all sizes at Victory Lane Quick Oil Change which is offering $10 off the cost of an oil change in exchange for a coat.

"This is our main project," said Derrick Oxender of the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Morning Edition. "It's an easy thing to do. We don't want to see any kids who are cold."

Cindy Strang, an insurance agent for State Farm in Dexter, has been running coat drives and also held a coat party.

"We collected more than 60 coats for The Education Project," said Strang. "It's rewarding because Peri knows what she needs and who needs it, and that makes you want to hurry up and do it."

Steiner reminds parents that it's not unusual these days for children in Washtenaw County to have classmates who are homeless.

"It's important that parents help children to understand that when kids appear different- are absent a lot, can't concentrate, or have hair and clothing that are messy- one distinct possibility is that they are homeless," said Steiner. "When you're living paycheck to paycheck, it just takes a little incident to make you lose your home. We have a responsibility to make sure that everyone has a place to live. Everyone has a right to have a place to live."

For information on housing, Washtenaw County has what Steiner calls "a single point of entry" by calling the Housing Access Program at 734-961-1999.



Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

What a wonderful organization.


Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 11:02 p.m.

With all the home in foreclosure sitting there ..The familie should be living in them and not become eyesores ....this should be emnent DOmain by each city or befor the pipes burst .......where is the governor when you nedd HIM...Do the banks pay the property Taxes on the houses inFORECLOSURE? really like to know?


Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 6:36 p.m.

To the parent that objects to the daughter getting assistance from this valuable organization, your response speaks volumes about you and is a partial explanation of why she would choose to "couch surf" rather than live with you. My guess is that you are an impatient, judgmental parent, with little insight or intention for insight into your daughters need and goals. I am grateful that she was resourceful enough to leave and find help on her own. Smart young woman and well on her way to a better future than the one you offered.


Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

I doubt that you are a parent Andralisa. Although I am sure we don't have the whole story here about Sunny's daughter, this mom clearly is trying to set reasonable boundaries for her daughter. Seventeen year olds should not be at all night parties!


Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

Is this what Hope & Change has done? "That's a 30 percent to 40 percent increase from last year, which was a 40 percent increase from the year before."

Daniel Soebbing

Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

This is what a collapse of the global financial system and national housing market has done. You can't pin this on Obama.


Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 7 p.m.

We are all shocked, if not disgusted, by this news. I know I will be paying a visit to The Education Project this week. I hope I am not alone.


Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 5:43 p.m.

I question how this organization classifies homeless. My daughter was offered assistance from the Education Project but she was not homeless. She had a comfortable home but she made the choice to "couch surf" instead of following the rules of my home. I feel that funds would be of better use for true homeless people and families, not for a rebellious teenager.


Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

For more information on eligibility, please see: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. The Education Project (and all public schools) must follow federal law about who is eligible, which includes anyone lacking a fixed, adequate and regular night-time residence. Resources (school supplies, etc.) are distributed by what the family/student/school identifies as a need; nothing is automatic. We do serve unaccompanied teens in temporary situations, per federal law, as they are at great risk of dropping out of school. We are there to encourage them to stay connected with school, re-connect with family (when appropriate), and get connected with great agencies like Ozone House. Some may have &quot;chosen&quot; to run away, but the great majority have been kicked out or feel they cannot or should not return home. Federal guidance on this is crystal clear -- our job is to serve those teens. And the reason is because we care about teens graduating and most teens won't initially disclose when situations are unhealthy at home. But please understand that the vast majority of families we work with have no or very low incomes. Please email me with questions at


Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

Once a teen turns 17, she has rights and can not be brought home against her will by the police. I understand that there are horrible situations that can cause a teen to runaway, however, in my situation, it is simply because I would not allow my daughter to attend all night parties. Once 17, and most teens know this, a parent is required to provide food and shelter to a child, yet can not turn to police to bring the child home when a runaway. If these resources were not available to my daughter, then she would have to suffer the consequences of her actions. Now she is just rescued. The worst part of all of it is that the resources were still offered to her once she was living in her fathers home - even though he makes a 6-figure salary!!!

Daniel Soebbing

Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

Not knowing anything about you or your daughter's situation, I don't see how this charity could deny assistance to your daughter if she asked for it. A person in her situation could have very good reasons for wanting to leave your house. Girls might run away from abusive or emotionally damaging situations. Again, I'm not accusing you of doing anything wrong, but a charity that is set up to help people in need with things like school supplies and warm clothing can't be in the business of wasting its limited resources investigating claims of people that can be technically classed as homeless. If your daughter is under the age of 18 and is not emancipated you do have legal options to force her to return home.

Daniel Soebbing

Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

That is a surprising and alarming number of homeless kids in this county. Sounds like this charity is doing great work and can use all of our support! It's too bad they've experienced funding cuts like so many other of our vital state funded government services. I guess we can thank governor rick for that.