Opinion: Investing in human services will pay off in future cost-saving and improved quality of life
A recent Detroit News article, "Ann Arbor struggles with homeless influx," focused on the more sensationalistic aspects of homelessness in Ann Arbor, including panhandling and the migration of non-county homeless individuals into our community, rather than presenting the well-balanced reality of the situation.
Though services may draw some homeless individuals to the Ann Arbor area, more than 90 percent of those served by the Delonis Center and the 50 community-based agencies funded by the city and county come from within our community.
Admittedly, aggressive panhandling cannot be tolerated, and all agencies serving the homeless work together with city and county governments to address this problem. We need residents and visitors to feel safe and comfortable in our city, so that Ann Arbor can continue to be one of the premier communities in the nation. We need residents and visitors to come downtown, to shop, dine, and invest, and these experiences must not be impeded by negative influences - especially those coming from other counties or states.
Like communities throughout the nation, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County have seen an increase in demand for basic needs, and nearly all of this need is coming from within our borders. Poverty, hunger, housing crises and homelessness, abuse and neglect, school failure, mental health struggles, and lack of access to quality healthcare are ultimately local issues. They affect all communities, and Ann Arbor is no exception.
We are proud to be a part of a community that addresses the impact of homelessness on our residents in a responsible way, and grateful to our many supporters who help us do our work.
Ellen Schulmeister is the CEO of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County.