According to official numbers collected by Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Michigan had thousands of residents who were considered homeless. While this is slightly down from the numbers reported in the previous year, the figures indicate that many individuals and families will not have permanent, safe or adequate housing. Identifying the problem is only half of the issue in Michigan, as locating the vulnerable populations and coordinating and connecting them to available housing is often difficult. A wide range of housing assistance programs exist in Michigan, and the shift has been away from providing transitional housing and more toward offering a longer-term solution for those most in need. The programs that seem to be enjoying the most success include the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the Step Forward Program and programs specifically geared for targeted populations such as homeless teens, veterans or those who are chronically homeless. The following information offers a brief overview of the programs that are available and how MI residents might take advantage of the help they have to offer.
Michigan Housing Choice Voucher Program
Michigan administrates the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher Program. This is one of the largest housing programs in the state. Vouchers are issued to qualifying families through the local public housing authorities (PHA). Federal guidelines for poverty must be met, and applicants must be residents of MI as well as U.S. citizens or legal immigrants. Household size, age, and whether someone is a veteran or disabled is also considered. Approximately 28,000 housing choice vouchers are issued each year. HUD encourages participants to look outside of urban areas for housing as the waiting lists are shorter. With this program, vouchers that are issued to individuals or families are taken by the participant to find their own housing in private apartment buildings or homes. Once a landlord agrees to accept the voucher, the PHA works with the landlord to come to terms. Most vouchers do not cover the entire cost of the rental costs, so participants should be aware that they may have to still pay a small amount each month toward their rent. When there are no more vouchers to be handed out, or there is no available housing, qualified participants are placed on a waiting list.
Project Based Housing Vouchers in Michigan
Project based housing is a complex of apartments or units in a project that are set aside by the local government for low income housing. In order to see if there are vacancies at any of the project based housing units, families must first contact the housing agent for the units. Those who are homeless and elderly or who are experiencing homeless and are considered special needs may be given a priority placement.
Veteran Housing Programs in Michigan
The HUD VASH Program is offered to Michigan veterans who are without a home and are considered low income. Housing choice vouchers are issued to veterans and operate much like the civilian program. Case management services are also offered to participants in conjunction with the housing assistance.
Step Forward Michigan
This program assists Michigan homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments or taxes. Participants may be receiving aid from multiple sources and still qualify for assistance from this program. Many of the participants in this program are also receiving unemployment benefits.
Michigan Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs
Teens who are homeless often go unnoticed and uncounted in census data. This is because many teens move from one place to the other, often living with friends or relatives until they outstay their welcome. However, this does not allow teens to receive the resources, nor the stability, that will equip them to deal with life as an adult. Many of the larger urban areas in Michigan have opened up drop-in centers which assists teens between the ages of 14 and 22 with access to resources such as washers and dryers, hot showers, food, computer use and free personal hygiene products. In some counties in Michigan, the homeless teen population numbers well into the thousands. Many of them are victims of domestic abuse or human trafficking. Teens who would like to locate a similar facility in their area can dial 2-1-1 to be connected to the closest center. Many counties also offer transitional housing for teens and special family centered homes for teens who are pregnant or who have recently had a child and need support with raising an infant.
Alternatives for Girls in Michigan
The Alternatives for Girls program specifically addresses the unique aspects of being a homeless woman. Women and girls who participate in this housing program are often the victims of violence and, as a result, do not have the resources or the support to make it on their own. The program offers several housing arrangements which works with women and girls to transition them into independent living.
Family Independence Program in Michigan
The Family Independence Program (FIP) offers cash assistance to qualifying families so that self-sufficiency might be regained. The cash assistance can be used to supplement housing costs and help purchase food or other necessary items. The program cannot be combined with TANF assistance from other states, refugee programs, supplemental security income, foster care payments or other state-funded programs offering cash assistance. The program is limited to 48 cumulative months.
811 Project Rental Assistance Program
This program is designed to offer supportive housing to those Michigan residents who are considered to be vulnerable to chronic homelessness. Often these residents are low-income residents who also have disabilities or mental health issues. Residents who are transitioning out of a nursing home, out of foster care or who might otherwise be institutionalized are the largest populations served by this program.
Expanding the existing number of supportive housing units available is a key goal of this program and aims to promote low-income integration of people with disabilities into a community. Many of these individuals might otherwise become homeless or institutionalized. The program is intended to support people that qualify for Medicaid and who are disabled, in their transition out of foster care, out of nursing facilities, out of homelessness or to maintain their presence in the community. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) works with the PHA offices to manage and administrate the program.