Ottawa County is receiving more than $1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
More than 7,300 homelessness service and housing programs in the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will receive a total of more than $2 billion that’s being distributed through HUD’s Continuum of Care program.
Locally, the grants will support rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing and supportive services provided through the Center for Women in Transition (CWIT), Community Mental Health (CMH), Good Samaritan Ministries and Greater Ottawa County United Way to support the Lakeshore Housing Alliance.
An estimated 600 families and individuals receive assistance from HUD and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) grants, according to Lyn Raymond, director of the Lakeshore Housing Alliance.
“Without the funding, I don’t know what people experiencing homelessness would do,” she said.
Good Samaritan Ministries is the central intake point for Ottawa County residents in a housing crisis. The agency receives about 4,000 phone calls each year related to housing assistance, said its executive director, Linda Jacobs.
Housing is the No. 1 need and the No. 1 unmet need, Jacobs said.
“It’s a huge crisis in our community,” she noted.
CWIT and Good Samaritan Ministries provide rapid re-housing programs, which connect residents with permanent housing and surrounds them with supportive services. Good Samaritan Ministries and CMH offer permanent supportive housing and support services for individuals who are homeless and permanently disabled.
Through the Community Mental Health program, nine families and 52 individuals who already receive assistance through CMH are served, said Anna Bednarek, program and community development coordinator for CMH. The program helps provide long-term assistance allowing people to afford their housing and live in the community, Bednarek said.
HUD funding allows CWIT to support up to 12 families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness because of domestic violence. Through the program, families can receive assistance for up to two years, said the center’s executive director, Beth Larsen.
“This is, in many ways, a critical step for survivors taking the next step to rebuild their lives after violence,” Larsen said.
With funding through health and human services, CWIT also helps provide housing for an additional 14 families. In addition to supportive housing, CWIT has an emergency shelter.
Stable housing is the most influential factor in whether or not an individual leaves or returns to a harmful relationship, Larsen said. While a variety of reasons can make housing a challenge for survivors, Larsen said the housing program creates hope and stability for them to leave a violent relationship.
The rapid re-housing program is also funded through MSHDA. Raymond said they’re also receiving funding for a new street outreach program in Ottawa County, which started in October 2017.
An individual from Community Action House connects with residents who live unsheltered and builds a relationship with them. The employee works to help them understand resources that are available to them and help them gain permanent housing.
While the HUD funding impacts those faced with the most barriers, there are residents who are employed but not making enough to afford living in the community — those who fall into the Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed (A.L.I.C.E.) category, Jacobs said.
The lack of housing at many price points, not just affordable, affects household stability and employment, and interrupts children’s’ education because families move around, Jacobs said.
“It has a ripple effect on our community,” she said.