Detroit gets $1.25M Bezos grant to aid homeless families

Detroit – The Homeless Action Network of Detroit has received the largest private donation in its 25-year history, the organization announced on Wednesday: $ 1.25 million from the Day 1 Families Fund, founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos became.

On Wednesday, the Bezos Fund announced $ 96 million in grants to 32 nonprofits that provide services to homeless families.

Tasha Gray, managing director of HAND, described the two-year scholarship as an opportunity to find out what works.

HAND will use the funds to test and research new approaches to ending homelessness, and make new settings.

One or two people are hired to work in the family homelessness field. One or two more will join as contract researchers. That means three or four people will join the 16 employees, at least temporarily, she said.

About $ 250,000 of the grant funding is being held in-house for the expansion of the workforce, Gray said. The remaining $ 1 million will be donated to Detroit charities, with a focus on new ideas to tackle homelessness.

“We will look into our data and analysis of family homelessness,” Gray said on Wednesday. “The money will help us to do research, which is really exciting because you normally don’t have any research money, especially not with our federal funding for improvements that really help our families.”

Founded in 1996, HAND describes itself as the “Homelessness Data, Resources and Change Hub” in Metro Detroit.

HAND is not a service provider. She applies for homelessness benefits for the Detroit area and passes the money on to other organizations. HAND works with more than 50 agencies that offer accommodation, temporary or permanent support housing and road services.

HAND also operates the Homeless Management Information System, a database on “Who is homeless in our community, what their needs are and what is working to meet those needs,” according to the HAND website.

More:HUD Grants $ 73 million to help tackle Michigan homelessness

The $ 1.25 million donation will fund this work, as well as a study of other methods of combating homelessness not covered by government grants.

Gray gave an example of someone who doesn’t have a home locally but is a bus ride or flight away with the family and ready to take them in. A private grant, she said, enables a nonprofit to pay for the ticket.

“We will be able to enhance the services they provide and fill in gaps that the government is not filling,” said Gray.

There are about 300 family beds in animal shelters in Detroit, Gray said. That corresponds to about 700 for single adults.

More:Agencies helping the poor meet needs amid a pandemic

HAND doesn’t yet know what the $ 1 million grant will be, but Gray said, “We want to see real impact and are not trying to thin it out.”

In addition to family homelessness, another focus area is distracting homelessness before it starts, Gray said.

The local funding process will open in 2022.

“We hope that we can get other investors who want to put some money in,” added Gray.

Detroit had 7,811 homeless people in 2020, 22% fewer than 10,0006 the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

But with the pandemic came a national moratorium on evictions due to back rent payments.

More:The Michigan courts are preparing for the influx of eviction cases and urging tenants to apply for federal assistance

Gray said that housing requests have increased since the moratorium was lifted and that it was too early to say whether the final 2021 numbers will look more like 2020 or 2019.

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