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WHA Celebrates National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week!

Heather Nash


November 11-19th was a week of reflection and community engagement as local agencies recognized National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (HHAW). This year, the Washtenaw Housing Alliance hosted two separate community events in support of HHAW 2017: a film screening and a night of storytelling. 


@home Film Screening: On Wednesday, November 15th, WHA hosted a screening of the film @home at Zingerman's Greyline event space in downtown Ann Arbor. The film follows formerly homeless, now turned homelessness advocate, Mark Horvath as he interviews and profiles individuals and families experiencing homelessness across the country. After the screening, WHA's Executive Director responded to audience member questions and led a group discussion on the issues of housing and homelessness in Washtenaw County. 

Screening of the film @home at Zingerman's Greyline

Screening of the film @home at Zingerman's Greyline

Voices of Homelessness Storytelling Event: Our second event took place on Friday, November 17th, at The Common Cup in Ann Arbor. Ten speakers from Avalon Housing, Michigan Ability Partners, Ozone House, Eastern Michigan University and Groundcover News shared stories about their lived experiences with homelessness. The well-attended event highlighted our county's urgent need for affordable housing and helped to humanize the issues of housing instability and homelessness within our community. A heartfelt thank you to all of the speakers (pictured below) for sharing their stories and a big thanks to both Avalon's VOCAL (Voices of Community Advocates and Leaders) program and Ozone House's SpeakOut program for their collaboration efforts! Finally, a very special thanks to both Zingerman's Greyline and The Common Cup Cafe for generously donating their spaces for our events! 

Federal Budget Forum: Recap & Report

Heather Nash

Last Friday, our team hosted a community forum to discuss the impact of the proposed 2018 federal budgets cuts on nonprofit organizations in Washtenaw County. During the event, we presented findings from our survey, heard from a panel of community leaders, and explored advocacy opportunities at the federal, state, and local level. We concluded that the 2018 budget cuts would negatively impact not only individuals and families in need of human services, but also the health and well-being of all Washtenaw County residents.

View our survey results and other resources from the forum below. Click here to connect with your representatives and start advocating.

PresentationSurvey Report | Budget Process Handout | Facebook Live Video

Panelists Annette Sobocinski from Child Care Network, Barbara Niess-May from SafeHouse Center, and Katie Doyle from Ozone House discuss federal budget impacts on their organizations.

Panelists Annette Sobocinski from Child Care Network, Barbara Niess-May from SafeHouse Center, and Katie Doyle from Ozone House discuss federal budget impacts on their organizations.

Lunch & Learn Session: Recap

Heather Nash

Last week, Washtenaw Housing Alliance and community partners hosted a lunch and learn to present findings from the recent NAEH National Conference on Ending Homelessness and Capitol Hill Day. Speakers included WHA Executive Director Amanda Carlisle, OCED Policy Specialist Laura Urteaga-Fuentes, OCED Data Specialist Andrew Kraemer, and SOS Community Services Executive Director Rhonda Weathers.

Each presenter shared key takeaways from the workshops and discussed how their organizations could apply what they learned to current and future projects. The event served as a great training opportunity for local service providers as well as an informative way to engage community members in our mission to end homelessness. View the presentation and notes below. 

Presentation | Amanda's notes | Laura's notes | Rhonda's notes

NAEH Conference Lunch and Learn - Event Photo.jpg

Summer Advocacy Update from the WHA

Heather Nash

This summer has been busy in terms of advocacy work at the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. There is a lot going on, and we are working hard to stay on top of all that is happening locally here in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, while also following the ever-changing landscape at the state and federal levels. Below is a brief update on our recent advocacy activities, as well as some advocacy-related resources we hope will be useful to you. 

Local Affordable Housing Victory: County Moves Forward with Selection of Veridian at County Farm for Platt Road Site

At long last the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has selected a proposal for the development of Washtenaw County's Platt Road site located at 2270 Platt Road. On August 2, Commissioners voted 8-1 in favor of THRIVE Collaborative’s Veridian at County Farm proposal, a net-zero mixed-income development that will include at least 50 permanent supportive housing (PSH) units - half of which will be for people/families earning less than 30% of the Area Median Income - as well as an innovative mix of other sustainable solutions and amenities, such as solar power, rainwater management, local food production and green space.

The development will include WHA member-agencies Avalon Housing and Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley as partners. This is an exciting project for the whole County and a great "win" for affordable housing advocates. We congratulate all the development partners and thank the County Commissioners for putting their support behind a project that values both social and environmental sustainability.

During the August 2 Board meeting, Commissioner Felicia Brabec also asked that County staff negotiate with THRIVE Collaborative to include more affordable housing units on the site, and a higher purchase price. We are encouraged by the desire to add more units of affordable housing, and hope the County is able to negotiate with the developer to get the most affordable units possible.

State Advocacy Event: Rally in Lansing to Oppose HUD Cuts

Left to right: Heather Nash, Amanda Carlisle, & Rebecca Weiland

Left to right: Heather Nash, Amanda Carlisle, & Rebecca Weiland

On July 27, affordable housing advocates from across the state, including three WHA staff members, gathered on the Capitol Steps in Lansing, Michigan to voice their opposition to the proposed federal budget cuts to HUD.

The rally, aptly titled "How Housing Changed My Life," featured stories from individuals and families from across Michigan who had experienced homelessness or housing insecurity and had received life-changing assistance from a HUD-funded housing program or service. Several individuals from Washtenaw County spoke about their experiences and the services they received from WHA member agencies Avalon Housing and Michigan Ability Partners. These stories provided a personal, and sometimes emotional, glimpse into the lives of real people who are impacted by the proposed HUD budget cuts.

We hope these stories will help guide the decisions that are made in Lansing and Washington, and we are keeping our eye on what is happening at the state and federal levels. Click here to learn more about our advocacy efforts

WHA Executive Director, Amanda Carlisle, at Capitol Hill Advocating for Policies to End Homelessness

WHA Executive Director, Amanda Carlisle, at Capitol Hill Advocating for Policies to End Homelessness

National Conference on Ending Homelessness: Recap and Resources

The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) hosted its 2017 National Conference on Ending Homelessness and Capitol Hill Day at the end of July. Over 2,000 providers, government leaders, advocates, and consumers, including WHA Executive Director Amanda Carlisle and staff from the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development and SOS Community Services, participated in workshops aimed at finding innovative solutions to ending homelessness and advocacy efforts on the Hill to send a loud and clear message to Members of Congress that ending homelessness in the US must be a priority. 

Amanda Carlisle presented the County's ongoing work on landlord engagement, which you can view here. All the presentations from all the workshops can be viewed here. You can also view the videos that were played at the daily plenary sessions here

The NAEH has also put together a series of useful advocacy-related resources, including a motion graphic on why advocacy matters (see below) that you can view and share, and an advocacy guide to ending homelessness.

National Alliance to End Homelessness,

In the Works: Federal Budget Survey and Community Forum

The WHA and its member organizations are beginning the process of organizing in opposition of the proposed 2018 federal budget cuts to state and local public assistance programs that help low- and middle-income families afford basic necessities, such as food, shelter, child care, job training, and much more. Read more about the proposed federal budget cuts and related advocacy efforts here

In July we distributed this survey to over 50 nonprofits, social service agencies, community groups, and other organizations that serve people who are vulnerable in Washtenaw County, asking respondents to indicate how much - if any - federal funding their organization receives and the anticipated impact the proposed budget cuts would have on their offerings and the people they serve.

The information provided will be compiled and shared with public officials, stakeholders and the public via a community forum this fall (week of October 16, exact date TBD). We hope our elected representatives will share our concern about the effect of the proposed cuts on those residents of Washtenaw County and beyond who are most vulnerable and act accordingly. 

Thank You for Reading!

Questions/comments? Contact Amanda Carlisle at

Farewell and Congrats, Ellen Schulmeister!

Heather Nash

Serving Washtenaw County since 1988, Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC) Executive Director, Ellen Schulmeister has retired! Ellen received proclamations from both the City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, honoring her years of service assisting our county’s most vulnerable population. Ellen played a key role in fundraising for the creation of the Robert J. Delonis Center, located in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, and has served as Executive Director since 1998. Shortly after, she helped to develop the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. We’d like to take this opportunity to give our most heartfelt thanks to Ellen for her vital role in helping to end homelessness in Washtenaw County. We are grateful that she will continue to be a member of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance Board of Directors. Congratulations, Ellen!


Trump Budget Slated to "Increase Homelessness and Hardship in Every State" and What You Can Do About It

Heather Nash

Attention Housing & Homelessness Advocates!

The Trump Administration released its 2018 Budget Proposal at the end of last month, and it includes shockingly deep cuts to numerous major public programs that help millions of struggling families pay for food, healthcare, housing, and more, all while providing massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. Learn more about how the Trump Budget would impact American families here.

Trump’s Budget will “Decimate” Public Programs

The budget release has spurred a massive response and backlash from many research and policy institutions, organizational leaders in the human services sector, as well as concerned citizens. Here we share recaps from two important advocacy Webinars presented on the Trump Budget, including action items that you and your organization can take TODAY to help preserve the basic human rights and needs of individuals and families here in Washtenaw County.

Webinar 1 Recap: Trump’s Budget NOT “Dead On Arrival"

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Coalition on Human Needs, and Center for American Progress recently co-sponsored a Webinar outlining tips, tactics, and various actions concerned citizens and organizations can take to help protect our country’s most vulnerable community members from the proposed Trump Budget cuts. 

Contrary to popular rhetoric, Trump’s budget is not necessarily “dead on arrival,” rather many of the basic components are the same as past Republican house budgets. The proposed budget has massive implications on the final budget that will ultimately come to pass. Therefore, we must act now to stop the Trump Budget from becoming reality.  


"Trump Budget Should Be Dead on Arrival — But May Not Be"

Start Here: Messaging Matters

Consider the following tips when communicating about the Trump Budget:

  • Oppose and Propose: Always present a strong alternative or “big idea” for what your organization WILL DO to help provide families’ access to basic living standards.

  • Highlight Broken Promises: The Trump campaign vowed to help poor and working class people, yet in his budget he does exactly the opposite. Show whose side Trump is really on. 

  • Avoid Charity Talk: Speak TO people, not ABOUT people. Explain in plain terms how the Trump Budget will impact “you and your family.”

  • Use “Kitchen Table” Terms: Avoid jargon, acronyms, program names, etc. that may be unfamiliar to some people. Rather, discuss “programs that enable families to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, etc.”

  • Name Villains and Tradeoffs: Don’t shy away from language that will help move people from disbelief, to anger/outrange, to action, for example “the Trump Budget slashes affordable housing to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.”

  • Show Who is Most Impacted: Reveal how vulnerable groups (people with disabilities, children, etc.) will be impacted by cuts to Medicaid, food, etc.

Other Ways to Take Action

Webinar 2 Recap: Trump Budget Slashes Funding for Housing & Homeless Assistance Programs

The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) hosted a Webinar on the impact of the President’s Budget on housing and homelessness programs and policies. According to CBPP, the Trump Budget would increase homelessness and hardship in every state.  

NAEH outlined some key policy priorities that are facing massive cuts under the Trump Budget, including:

  • McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants is the federal governments largest homeless assistance program. According to NAEH, the Trump Budget proposes to cut the program by $133 million, resulting in an estimated 25,000-person increase in homelessness in FY 2018.

  • The Medicaid Expansion increased health care coverage to individuals and families living in extreme poverty and helps pay for supportive housing services. According to NAEH, together the Trump Budget cuts to Medicaid and the American Health Care Act (if passed) would cut Medicaid spending in half by 2027, with at least 14 million people feeling the impact immediately. 

  • Affordable Housing programs are critical to homelessness prevention. The Trump Budget proposes to downsize Section 8 by ~250,000, an unprecedented move that would - for the first time ever - take housing vouchers away from people currently using them and make them homeless. The proposed budget also eliminates the National Housing Trust Fund and severely cuts public housing.

We must act NOW to save the programs that assist struggling individuals and families facing homelessness and housing affordability issues. Please consider signing the following petitions, and ask the organizations you are part of - as well as your friends and families - to do the same.

Take Action Today, by:

Questions/comments? Contact WHA here.

Sharing a Message from Diane Yentel, National Low Income Housing Coalition President & CEO, on President Trump's Proposed Budget

Heather Nash

Message from Diane Yentel, National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO, on President Trump's Proposed Budget

Washington, DC – President Donald Trump is expected to send to Congress a high-level budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 next week. An overview of early drafts by the Washington Post show the severity of cuts under consideration. Multiple sources confirm that OMB Director Mick Mulvaney could slash the HUD budget by as much as 14% ($6 billion)—without considering inflationary adjustments. There is a national shortage of 7.4 million homes affordable and available to the lowest income people in this country. Today, just one in four low income people in need of assistance, including seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and veterans, get the help that they need. In light these considerations, these suggested cuts are unconscionable and unacceptable. These draconian cuts could cause homelessness.

The proposed cuts would devastate critical programs that keep roofs over the heads of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. They are in direct contrast to Mr. Trump’s promises to revitalize distressed communities and ensure that “nobody’s going to be dying on the street” from homelessness. 

Mr. Trump’s proposed budget would slash resources to repair and rehabilitate public housing developments by two-thirds. Even before these dramatic cuts, we lose an estimated 10,000 public housing apartments each year due to chronic underfunding; the capital needs backlog is close to $40 billion and grows at a rate of $3.4 billion per year. Such deep cuts would allow properties in which billions of dollars have been invested over decades to fall further into disrepair. Communities would lose a long-standing asset that has provided millions of people a place to call home and that—with the proper investment—can continue to do so for generations to come.

The proposed cuts to Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance could result in more than 200,000 families losing that critical support. Many would be forced to pay even more of their limited incomes on rent, having insufficient resources left for food, healthcare, transportation and other basic needs. Others would be unable to cover the increased cost of their rents and would face the destabilizing impact of eviction, which has especially damaging effects on children and their ability to succeed in school. In the worst cases, these families will become homeless, reversing the gains made in recent years to reduce homelessness in America.

Mr. Trump further proposes cutting resources that provide thousands more affordable homes for the lowest income seniors or people with disabilities. This would put residents at an especially high risk of eviction and homelessness, make it difficult for landlords to make their monthly mortgage payments, and erode the public-private partnerships that make these rental homes possible.

While Native Americans have some of the worst housing needs in the U.S.—suffering from extreme levels of poverty and substandard housing—Mr. Trump’s proposed budget would cut resources targeted to these communities by nearly a quarter.

And by eliminating block grant resources for community development and housing production, the Trump budget would undermine the ability for states and communities to address their most pressing needs.

Federal investments in affordable housing have already been cut significantly in recent years because of the low spending caps required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Funding to HUD was already $3.4 billion—or 8.4%—lower in 2016 than in 2010, adjusted for inflation. The same programs that would suffer dramatic cuts in Mr. Trump’s budget are those that have been hardest hit in recent years—public housing, community development and housing block grants, and housing for the elderly and people with disabilities.

This is the wrong approach. Mr. Trump and Congress should be increasing investments in affordable homes—not dramatically cutting resources. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) recently released report, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, the U.S. has a shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental homes available to the nation’s 11.4 million extremely low income households. This means that for every 100 extremely low income households, there are just 35 rental homes affordable and available to them. As a result, 71% pay more than half of their income on rent and utilities. Despite the growing housing affordability crisis, just one in four households eligible for housing assistance receive the help they need.

The NLIHC-led Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding recently released a new report, A Place to Call Home, showcasing the latest research on how access to affordable housing boosts economic mobility, reduces poverty and homelessness, improves health outcomes, and strengthens the economy by supporting local jobs and increasing wages. The report estimates that more than 500,000 jobs were supported through HUD investments in 2015 alone. It also features more than 100 success stories of how families and communities have benefited from federal investments in affordable housing—from the very programs that the Trump budget proposes to cut.

These proposed cuts are unacceptable, and Congress must soundly reject them. We call on HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson to uphold the commitments he made during his confirmation process. At that time, Dr. Carson said, “We need to be cognizant of our fiscal responsibilities as well as our social responsibilities. Safety net programs are important. I would never abolish one without having an alternative.” We couldn’t agree more. Dr. Carson must uphold his commitment to “house as many families as possible in safe, affordable housing…and look for ways to expand affordable housing options everywhere” by urging Mr. Trump and Mr. Mulvaney to reverse these harmful cuts before submitting a budget proposal to Congress.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump and Congress must lift the spending caps with parity for defense and non-defense programs and ensure the highest level of funding possible for affordable housing. We cannot afford to balance our budget on the backs of low-income people. Instead, we must invest in the resources that families and communities need to thrive.

Join NLIHC and other leaders of CHCDF for a webinar on March 20 at 4pm to learn more about the impact of President Trump’s proposed budget and how you can help protect these critical resources.

WHA's January Newsletter

Heather Nash

To view a copy of our January Newsletter, please click HERE. If you're interested in subscribing to our newsletter, please visit our home page and fill out the box at the bottom of the page! 


Recent MLive article focuses on Built for Zero initiative

Heather Nash

A homeless camp under a bridge in Ann Arbor in 2015. (File photo | The Ann Arbor News)

A homeless camp under a bridge in Ann Arbor in 2015. (File photo | The Ann Arbor News)

By Ryan Stanton

ANN ARBOR, MI - Since launching an ambitious campaign to address homelessness in January 2015, organizations in Washtenaw County have housed 269 veterans and 230 chronically homeless individuals.

Those figures exceed the county's initial goals for the Zero:2016 campaign, which was slated to end next month.

County officials announced this week the effort is going to continue and is being renamed "Built for Zero," reflecting the progress made to build sustainable systems to end veteran and chronic homelessness for good.

Washtenaw County is among dozens of communities nationwide working to end chronic and veteran homelessness through the national Zero:2016 campaign.

According to Community Solutions, the national nonprofit coordinating the effort, participating communities have collectively housed more than 60,000 homeless people since January 2015, five communities have ended veteran homelessness, and two have ended chronic homelessness.

Washtenaw County has received the Michigan Housing Development Authority's "Ending Veteran Homelessness" award for reducing veteran homelessness.

"Ending homelessness requires a system that is responsive and flexible," Andrea Plevek, director of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, said in a statement. "Over the past two years, our community has incorporated principles of continuous improvement and produced incredible housing outcomes for both veterans and people experiencing chronic homelessness. And while we still have work to do, we know we can make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in Washtenaw County."

As part of Zero:2016, communities are working together to build real-time, by-name lists of individuals experiencing homelessness, use survey tools to identify the best housing options for different individuals, integrate local housing and service agencies into a single coordinated system, and recruit landlords to increase the pool of available apartments.

The Washtenaw County Continuum of Care coordinates community-based efforts to end homelessness and has implemented those action steps, resulting in addressing the needs of homeless individuals faster and more effectively, according to the Office of Community and Economic Development.

For more information on the Zero:2016 efforts in the Ann Arbor area, go here. And for more info on Built for Zero, go here.