GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that $5-billion of the American Rescue Plan will be allocated to create affordable housing and services that help people experiencing homelessness.
Dégagé Ministries in the Heartside area was excited when they got the news. Executive director Thelma Ensink said $150,000,000 of that money will be coming to Michigan, and Dégagé is one of the recipients.
“We are so grateful. Everyday we are talking with men and women who need this support,” Ensink said last Friday during a Zoom interview. “So, for us this is a gift that we know will go to use to really help whose names are on my mind and in my heart, that we will be able to move forward towards their goals.”
Ensink said she doesn’t know how much money they will receive. However, it’ll go to programs from mental health, job skills training, and education.
She said that homelessness was a crisis prior to COVID. However, since the pandemic began in March 2020, and all the job loss that ensued, homelessness has gotten even worse.
So, the money is “really essential” she said.
“This will mean for us support for not only affordable housing in our area but also support for programming,” Ensink said. “It’s so important that people have that affordable housing but it’s also important that you have that programming to support them to be able to attain housing and then retain housing.”
According to HUD’s website, in West Michigan, Battle Creek is getting $1,094,358; Kalamazoo, $1,881,648; and Grand Rapids, $4,630,669.
“There’s about 20 different organizations, like local units of governments and counties that will be accessing these funds,” said Kelly Rose with the Michigan State Housing Development and Authority. “So, MSHDA specifically will be receiving about $63,000,000 as they call it the ‘non-entitlement' to balance the state in that aspect. But, really that gives us the flexibility to deploy funds across the whole state.”
Rose is the chief housing solutions officer at MSHDA. She said part of the plan is to disperse the funds to rural and smaller communities to help with their housing needs. They also plan to use a large portion of the money to build new $300, $400, and $500 affordable housing apartments.
“We would have the ability to purchase small hotels or other buildings that are similar to that to where they can get re-purposed in terms of being homeless shelters, to where single families will be in a room and have their own bathroom, and be able to have privacy, especially during a pandemic.” Rose said during a Zoom interview on Monday. “Obviously a couple of years down the road we hope to not be dealing with all of these things, but still having a much nicer environment for people when they are experiencing homelessness.”
Rose added that at this time they don’t know exactly when they’ll be able to access the funds. However, between the Consolidated Appropriation Act and the American Rescue Plan, they’ll be working with $1-billion, providing resources to help those experiencing homelessness get back on their feet.
“Housing is so much more than a roof over your head,” Ensink said. “It really is about dignity and respect of each individual, of each human. That’s our mission here at Dégagé. We want to reflect the love of Christ to all. We want to give that dignity and respect to every person.”