2017-12-07 / Community

Non-profit still assisting with rental costs

By John Bonke
Staff Writer • jbonke@mihomepaper.com

Alex Miller Alex Miller HURON COUNTY - Some at-risk of becoming homeless for the very first time don’t know where to turn. But locally, Huron County Homeless Solutions (HCHS), provides short-term relief to help people attain and maintain stable housing. The group has been doing this for the past decade and a half.

HCHS is a non-profit that assists Huron County residents with rental costs to secure or maintain housing. The effort is led by newly elected Chair Alex Miller, a Huron County resident who is a 2004 Harbor Beach graduate and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work in 2009 from Saginaw Valley State University.

“Many of these cases would fall through the cracks without our assistance because they don’t qualify at Department of Health and Human Services, Blue Water Center for Independent Living or Human Development Commission, for various reasons,” said Miller.

One census, which occurs every January, Point in Time, counts the number of literally homeless -non the streets, in a shelter, or living in a place not meant for human habitation - 24 cases in Huron County, 1 in Sanilac County and six in Tuscola County.

“Homelessness is a major issue in Huron County, and a majority of residents in this County don’t know it,” Miller said. Huron County is home to two shelters - the Port Austin Bible Campus and SafePlace in Bad Axe.

“I frequent these shelters to complete intakes with residents and it’s not uncommon that I touch base with 10-15 people total from each shelter per month,” Miller also said. “This includes homeless children.”

The June 2016-June 2017 follow up report Miller did showed that the non-profit assisted 50 Huron County residents to become or stay housed, and 36 of these 50 approvals were successful, meaning they stayed in the housing the non-profit helped them with or they moved on good terms - for a 72-percent success rate.

HCHS provides connections with other agencies that can help remove barriers to housing such as utility assistance, medical services and foreclosure counseling. HCHS is a payor of last resort, meaning that all other funding sources must be accessed or denied before it helps. HCHS might provide assistance to pay rent arrearages to avoid eviction and paying the first month’s rent or a security deposit.

The coalition began as a workgroup of the Huron County Community Collaborative (HCCC), a group of human service agency executive directors. Some of the original members were Terry Brown, Dave Drossoss, Bob Bodis, Craig Colton and Kathie Harrison. The group was charged with determining the extent of homelessness and what services were available; they noted a rise the numbers of homeless and those at-risk for homelessness, through anecdotal observations of agency front-line workers. Although the group determined many individuals and families were challenged in maintaining their housing, they discovered some programs weren’t being used to their fullest extent - and some needs were going unmet all together.

The current board is made up of member organizations including the Department of Human Services, Human Development Commission (HDC), Huron Behavioral Health (HBH) and the Blue Water Center for Independent Living, Huron County SafePlace, concerned citizens and the “Friends of the Homeless” - who help in a variety of ways to support the work.

The group takes no federal or state dollars as funds come from community donations and grants from Huron County Community Foundation (HCCF), Harbor Beach United Community Fund, churches and community members. All funds go to direct services and all administration costs are donated and no one holds a paid position. All directors volunteer their time.

Anyone facing a housing crisis who would like to see if they qualify for assistance is urged to call 810-648-2555, which is the phone number for the Blue Water Center for Independent Living being the central intake for housing for the counties of the Thumb. Miller works at the center full-time as a housing specialist.

Anyone who knows someone who is homeless or even at-risk of becoming homeless, is urged to have the person call 810-648-2555. Even if HCHS can’t help, they are aware of what partner organizations might be able to help.

Local community members can also help by: becoming a “Friend of the Homeless;” attend or volunteer at a fundraiser; conduct a fundraiser; ask a church or civic organization to host a presentation or make a donation for the silent auction at the main fundraiser.

Homeless Solutions is also looking for board members and volunteers to help with fundraising.

“Donations are a blessing, too!” Miller added. Donations can be made by making a check payable to Huron County Homeless Solutions and regular mailed to: Huron County Homeless Solutions, P.O. Box 115, Bad Axe, MI 48413.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Huron County Homeless Solutions may call Alex Miller at 810- 648-2555.

Characteristics of the homeless:

• The average age of a homeless person in
the United States is 9 years old
• The family unit is usually a single mom
with two kids
• Reluctant to ask for help and wait too
long before asking for help
• Fearful and overwhelmed
• Newly poor and don’t know where to turn
• Stigma can be a barrier to assistance

What causes Homelessness?

• Downturn in the economic conditions in
our county (agricultural and tourism jobs can
be seasonal)
• High percentage of older homes with
increased heating and maintenance costs
• Unexpected medical bills

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