Kelly had been couch surfing as well as living in her car and was struggling with untreated mental health issues. She was unable to hold down a job and lacked connections to services. She did not have a safe place to stay. Kelly came to Housing Hour and was connected immediately to services and housing through the mental health outreach worker. This connection ultimately resulted in her obtaining a permanent housing voucher. We met up with Kelly again recently as she attended HRI’s fundraising event: A Walk to End Homeless in March. She wanted to “participate and give something back” to the community who assisted her. She walked 3 miles that day in support of ending homelessness. She has been safely housed for the past year and is attending community colleges classes. She is medically stable and states “I don’t know were I would have been if I had not come to Housing Hour and been connected to so many resources by so many caring people”.
When I met Galyn Barnum, Housing Stabilization Director for Housing Resources, Inc. (HRI) at Nonprofit Advocacy Day in June, she was so proud to tell this story. Galyn, like so many people across the state, work to end homelessness. HRI provides services that are targeted to include many socially and economically vulnerable adults and families facing a housing crisis. Homelessness is not limited to age or gender and it is a life-altering situation. More than half of the population served at HRI are children, a scary statistic. Even worse, children who experience homelessness are more likely to become homeless as an adult.
HRI works to connect, educate and empower people to prevent that from happening.
Among the array of programs available to address these issues, a weekly drop in service called Housing Hour is available allowing renters, homeowners, landlords and other agency service providers an opportunity to meet with primary housing partners to help solve their housing issues. HRI partners with five other community housing agencies including Department of Human Services, Legal Aid of Western Michigan, Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services, Community Mental Health and Community Homeworks, with additional community partners for special events.
Housing Hour is a community collaboration in the spirit of “one stop shopping” for resources to provide information and services for a variety of housing solutions for any Kalamazoo County residents. All partners speak face to face with attendees for the purpose of providing information, eligibility screenings and problem resolution. This collaborative effort is changing the way that business is being done to achieve higher results.
Kelly’s story is only one testimonial for the effectiveness of these programs and serves as a reminder for why those of us in the industry are so passionate and committed to ending homelessness and assuring safe and affordable housing for our citizens. Whatever issue, be it housing searches and referrals, legal advice, weatherization or budgeting, a person has anything they need to start the process of changing their life situation for the better in one room filled with experts who care.
This work requires people like Galyn, organizations like HRI and strong partnerships to collaborate and unite. It’s a big job that faces continuous cuts in funding, despite the consistent need for attention and action. Even further, building relationships with elected officials, both locally and statewide, can help strengthen advocacy efforts when it comes time to make decisions. With the constant influx of information, having the opportunity to provide information and perspective on behalf of the people your community serves is invaluable.
HRI is fortunate to enjoy a positive relationship with House Representative Sean McCann and Senator Tonya Schuitmaker. Last week, Governor Synder signed four bills related to foreclosure. These bills were in the legislature at the time that Galyn sat down and personally talked with Representative McCann and Senator Schuitmaker at Advocacy Day and it was important for her to describe how these bills would directly affect their constituents in Kalamazoo County. With every opportunity there is a need for awareness and education for success. Together, it is amazing what can be accomplished. Just ask Kelly.