A2 locals demonstrate for housing rights and raise funding in Washtenaw County

Wrapped in hats and gloves and coffee in hand, dozens of Ann Arbor community members braved the brisk, cold Saturday morning to raise awareness and advocate for uninhabited people in Washtenaw County.

In honor of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County organized the Hustle for Housing and Walk to End Homelessness, which included a two-mile walk through downtown Ann Arbor. The group first gathered at Liberty Plaza on the corner of East Liberty St. and South Division St.

Adam, a former unhodged customer at the Delonis Shelter, recently received housing aid in Ann Arbor. After being out of housing for a long time, Adam said that mass housing was a necessity for all people and urged the district leaders to provide the means and resources to support other unaccomodated people in the district.

“We are people, we are people, we deserve a place to stay,” said Adam. “We need other people who look at us for who we are. We are people like you. If we stay on the street, chances are we might end up in the hospital, dead or something. It’s unsafe. “

Amanda Carlisle, executive director of the Washtenaw County Housing Alliance, also spoke to the community, advocating the need to increase resources to support more permanent, affordable housing.

“We want to make sure we let everyone know that there are people here in Washtenaw County who are living with housing insecurity, that there are people who are homeless right here in Washtenaw County, and we know what we can do to help them help, ”said Carlisle. “We can offer them permanent housing. We can offer them services. We can provide them with quick accommodation, get them out of the streets, out of the accommodations. We know what we can do. We just need the resources for that. “

Some local organizations have already contributed to the effort. Avalon Housing, a non-profit providing permanent affordable housing to more than 800 people in Washtenaw County, recently opened 36 affordable housing units on Maple Road. The project was funded in part by the City of Ann Arbor, which provided affordable housing for 20 years.

“We used a lot of federal dollars to build (the Avalon) housing, but the services provided on Avalon Hickory Way projects are funded through the Millage, so this is really important,” said Carlisle. “What you can do now is pay attention to what is happening at the city and district level and also at the federal level.”

The Build Back Better Bill passed by the Biden administration in the House of Representatives on Friday provides for the construction of more than a million new rental and single-family homes. The invoice also includes rental and down payment assistance through an extended voucher program. If passed in the Senate, the $ 150 billion bill would be the largest single investment in affordable housing in history.

Dan Kelly, executive director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, also encouraged the Ann Arbor City Council to allocate more funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to affordable housing. The government of Biden passed the ARPA in March to help local governments, communities and citizens recover from the pandemic. Washtenaw County received more than $ 71 million in two equal awards: first in May 2021 and then in May 2022.

“We want as much as possible (of the funding) to go into affordable housing and support like the shelter,” said Kelly. “That way we can have more incredible stories, more apartments down there, over there, all over the city center, and of course all over the county. Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming out and showing your support. Let’s just get on with this mission and end homelessness here in Washtenaw County. “

The group then began marching down South Division St. chanting “Housing is a human right” and “Affordable housing for all.” As the group walked through Ann Arbor Farmers Market and the nearby neighborhoods, a few cars drove by and honked their horns for assistance. Ann Arbor Police followed suit, blocking the streets to oncoming traffic.

Rackham student Matt Dargay, a graduate student in the University of Michigan’s social work program, told The Michigan Daily he hoped the city would prioritize affordable housing and remove exclusive zone restrictions that put restrictions on the types of homes that can be found in a. Can be built special neighborhood.

“We are here today because we want to support housing policy and the financing of affordable housing in the area, because it is becoming more and more expensive to live here,” said Dargay. “If we want to get housing for essential workers and working class people, we have to provide affordable housing. That’s why we’re here to show our support for it. “

Shirley Wolfe of Ann Arbor, who has lived in town since graduating from university in the 1950s, attended the protests with Phil Carroll of Ann Arbor. Despite the cold, Wolfe said she came to fight for the people of the city who struggle with this weather day in and day out.

“We’re both of the same age – I’m in my 90th and (Carroll is) almost 80th,” said Wolfe. “(But) anything to encourage more concern, to let people know that we have a large number of homeless people in Ann Arbor right now, and we have many people your age and even families living in cars. It’s really cold. “

Carroll said he hopes the city will consider introducing a rent control ordinance to help curb affordable housing issues. A similar proposal was made to Ann Arbor in the 1980s, but the state of Michigan passed laws banning the proposal.

“We’ll never have affordable housing in Ann Arbor as long as we let builders dominate our city council,” said Carroll. “We need a rent control regulation, and people should be aware that there are many sentiments in favor of it.”

Several members of Ann Arbor City Council were also in attendance, including Councilors Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, and Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4. Griswold said she was in preliminary talks with the university to find additional accommodation for individuals in the Workers who may not be able to afford life in the city and who have to commute to work on a daily basis.

“We have a critical housing shortage across the country, particularly in Ann Arbor,” said Griswold. “One of the topics I’m focusing on is the University of Michigan … What I would like to see, and have spoken to a number of people including the president of the university, is the commitment for 2,000 units of workers’ housing on the North Campus. “

When the rally reached the Delonis Center, participants held signs in front of passing cars while enjoying coffee and refreshments at the end of the walk. The atmosphere was spirited and a sense of purpose and camaraderie spread through the crowd.

“I recently got an apartment after a long time. It’s such a blessing. It helps us a lot, ”said Adam. “I don’t have to fight anymore. But there are a lot of people out there who are still fighting. We need you. We need you to open up more living space. Give us more living space. Fund us. Give us your helping hand. “

The daily editor Kristina Zheng can be reached at [email protected]

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