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A federally funded program providing rental assistance to Michiganders is focusing on getting payments to people at the highest-risk of being evicted, first. A national eviction moratorium expires next week. If it’s not extended, a backlog of stalled eviction cases could proceed.

“The worst case scenario is that [the national eviction moratorium] does end and there could be many orders of eviction happening in early April,” said Kelly Rose, chief housing solutions officer at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).

Today on Stateside, how the new COVID variant, present on the University of Michigan campus, is affecting the school and what it could mean for the rest of the state And, shelters in Grand Rapids are seeing an increase in the demand for services as the economic fallout from COVID pushes people out of housing. Plus, how new guidelines for vaccine priority have cut off much of the supply of doses for the Upper Peninsula.

Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Antonio Valenti was born and raised in Detroit, but had been living and working Colorado for the past few years. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, he wanted to be closer to his family, especially his sons. But Valenti couldn't work: he suffers from a degenerative condition called spinal stenosis.

"It's a form of spine disease that attacks your bones and just basically feels like it's breaking my back," Valenti says of the pain.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A new emergency shelter will soon open in downtown Grand Rapids, with up to 100 beds.

The shelter will be in an old retail space in the Heartside neighborhood downtown. Two existing shelters – Mel Trotter Ministries and Guiding Light, are working together to open up the space, along with the building’s owner.

Dennis Van Kampen, head of Mel Trotter Ministries, says demand for shelter has increased since the start of the pandemic, even as the shelter space has declined.

Pixabay

Homeless shelters are gearing up for their first full winter during a pandemic.

Laurel Burchfield, Associate Director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, says last spring, most shelters swiftly located additional places to house homeless people so they could physically distance.

Shelter residents were frequently tested, and the most medically vulnerable were put up in hotels. Burchfield say the measures prevented big COVID-19 outbreaks among homeless people in most cities.

a ventilator with tubes coming out of it
Adobe Stock Images

Today on Stateside, a West Michigan hospital puts into action a pandemic plan more than a decade in the making. Also, Michigan’s manufacturers assess the risks of entering the medical supply market amid a shortage of critical health care equipment needed for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

man sits on bench with sign that says anything helps
Unsplash

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered people in Michigan to “stay at home” in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order goes into effect on Tuesday,  March 24.

While staying home is an important way to reduce the spread of the virus, not everybody has that option. Homeless shelters around the state are having to balance meeting people’s most basic needs like food and housing, while also doing their best to maintain social distance in crowded facilities.

Miriam Elamine / Southwest Solutions

More than 65,000 people in Michigan experienced homelessness last year, up about 3% from 2017, according to an annual report from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

The report’s data is based off counts entered into a statewide agency from homeless service providers across the state. It counts the “literally homeless”—people living in shelters, on the streets, in cars, or in places like abandoned homes. It does not count people who live with friends or family members to avoid homelessness.

young kids playing with toys on floor
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The number of homeless kids under the age of four in Michigan could be much higher than reported by homeless service agencies.

That's according to a report from researchers at the Michigan League for Public Policy and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing held a ceremony this week to celebrate an end to veteran homelessness in the Capitol City.

The Lansing, East Lansing and Ingham County Continuum of Care, the Capitol Region Housing Collaborative (CRHC), was recently recognized by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as “effectively ending” homelessness among veterans.

close up of two doors on a car  that say Detroit Police
Sean Davis / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Today on Stateside, new reporting contradicts the city of Detroit’s claim that police response times are going down. Plus, advocates are cheering a law passed during lame duck that makes it easier for people experiencing homelessness to get state ID cards. 

A house  in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The number of homes listed for sale in metro Grand Rapids hit a 20 year low last year, according to new numbers released by the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors.

That’s as the average price of homes in Michigan’s second largest city hit an all-time high.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

About 80 families could move into a new emergency shelter in Grand Rapids in the coming weeks.

The shelter is inside a former nursing home. The city planning commission approved the site for use as emergency housing, but only for one year.

Police officers standing inside the yellow tape at Kalamazoo's Bronson Park
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Bronson Park sits across from Kalamazoo’s City Hall. Tuesday night it was full of people, music and tents.

But by Wednesday morning, it had police officers standing behind yellow caution tape that surrounds the park.

Motor Corps and Canteen volunteers from the Detroit chapter of the American Red Cross, taking a break from delivering supplies to influenza victims.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION

Today on Stateside, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Bill Gelineau says he would cut Medicaid costs by rewarding young women for not getting pregnant before age 23. Plus, 100 years ago, the world’s deadliest flu pandemic hit Michigan and killed roughly 19,000 people.

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below. 

Shelter leader responds to complaints from homeless Kalamazoo residents in ongoing protests

Bryce Huffman

Update: 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 19

Kalamazoo police officers arrived at Bronson Park this morning to clear the park of homeless people and protestors.

The city imposed a deadline of 7 p.m. Tuesday night for homeless campers to leave the park.

Some people have been arrested, including city commissioner Shannon Sykes.

child coloring with crayons
Unsplash / Aaron Burden

Today on Stateside, we hear from Kalamazoo’s city manager about the response to protests over homelessness in the city. Plus, parents aren’t the only ones with long lists of school supplies to buy before the year starts—teachers are spending their own money on classroom essentials, too.

City manager addresses protests over homelessness in Kalamazoo

 Reimund Holzhey mugshot
Courtesy of Michigan History Center

Today on Stateside, after a contentious city council meeting, Kalamazoo is moving to meet the demands of homeless protestors camped out in a downtown park. Plus, nationally-recognized teacher Matinga Ragatz talks about why she thinks school reform is hurting, not helping, students.

Kalamazoo, MI

A conflict between Kalamazoo and a group of homeless people has entered its third week.

Some people have been camping in downtown Bronson Park to protest the lack of shelter space and a long-term plan to help people find permanent housing.

The city tried to get them to move to two other places, but both were rejected, because of concerns about lack of safety or shade, among other reasons.

Jim Ritsema is Kalamazoo's city manager.  He says the protesters are violating a city ordinance by staying overnight in a park.

Kalamazoo, MI

The city of Kalamazoo has struck a deal with a group of homeless protesters who were refusing to leave a downtown park.

Coin box at Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Airplane passengers in Grand Rapids can get rid of some spare change and fight homelessness at the same time.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport has added boxes where passengers can drop coins before going through the security checkpoint.

Stacy Peck, Tyler Trowbridge, and Wendy Botts
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

 


The opioid epidemic has been devastating to families and communities across America. For those struggling with addiction, getting clean can be a grueling process, even when they are able to get into a rehab facility. 

Tyler Trowbridge knows that struggle well, which is why he helped design Dirt City Sanctuary. Trowbridge, along with his co-founders Stacy Peck and Wendy Botts, joined Stateside to talk about their efforts to build a new kind of community for recovering addicts. 

 

A recent report from the University of Michigan Poverty Solutions finds the state has one of the largest populations of homeless students in the country. 

The school district with the highest number of reported homeless students in the state is Kalamazoo Public Schools, the state's 13th largest district.

The district is composed of 26 schools with approximately 13,000 students. The UM report found 904 of those students reported experiencing homelessness. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s homeless population is trending downward for the third year in a row—in part, officials say, because of an emphasis on finding people homes.

Detroit’s annual “point in time count” of people living on the street or in shelters tallied up 1,769 people when it was conducted on January 31st of this year. That’s a 15% drop from 2017.

Mariam Elamine / Southwest Solutions

When the weather gets as bitterly cold as it is right now, an already-dangerous life becomes downright lethal for people living on the streets.

There are teams who try to bring in them in from the cold, if only for a couple days. But first, they have to find them.

Roymundo VII / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The Next Idea

Homelessness has a different look in a city than it does in rural areas, and somehow it feels easier to overlook.

Dennis Van Kampen, executive director and CEO of the Grand Rapids nonprofit Mel Trotter Ministries, joined Stateside to talk about a pilot program aimed at helping homeless families in rural Cedar Springs, and take on the problem of rural homelessness more broadly.

Roymundo VII / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The number of homeless people in Michigan declined 9% last year.

That shows Michigan's approach is working, says Kelly Rose.  She's Chief Housing Solutions Officer for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. 

Rose says agencies now focus resources on those most in need, rather than first come, first serve.  And the approach is to get someone into housing first, then help them deal with problems like substance abuse or mental health.

military veterans
John M. Cropper / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The problem of homelessness among military veterans in Kent County has been solved, according to several organizations that have been working to find housing for them.

The county had more than 400 homeless veterans when the collaborative effort began in 2015.

Courtesy of HandUp Detroit

Giving money to the homeless, especially on the street, seems to give rise to a whole range of emotions, from the joy of giving to plain suspicion at handing over money to a stranger. 

There are those who don’t want to give cash because they aren’t sure how it will be used. Others feel compelled to help a person in obvious need. Some cities have even gone so far as to ban panhandling altogether.

Now, an online giving platform called HandUp is taking a new approach. The San Francisco-based website recently launched an effort in Detroit that allows online donors to give money directly to homeless individuals and families in the metro area.

Valenstein hopes the project will help those in need of social services connect with agencies that are better suited to help them.
flickr user Rosser321 / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Take funding from the Affordable Care Act, add a $70 million state innovation model grant to the state Department of Health and Human Services, and you’re about to see an ambitious new project that can change health care delivery in Michigan.

It’s called Michigan’s Blueprint for Health Innovation.

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