Stories indexed with the term ‘Shelter Association of Washtenaw County’

County Weighs Response to Homelessness

At their May 7, 2014 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners were briefed on possible responses to homelessness and a lack of affordable housing in this community. The briefing was in response to a board directive given to staff on April 2, 2014 to develop a plan for updating the county’s Blueprint to End Homelessness. The Blueprint  was adopted in 2004. The process of updating that plan is to be completed by Oct. 1, 2014.

The May 7 presentation was given by three different staff: Mary Jo Callan, director of the county’s office of community and economic development; Ellen Schulmeister, executive director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, which runs the Delonis Center homeless shelter; and Amanda Carlisle, director of the … [Full Story]

County Board Discusses Homelessness

After about 90 minutes of discussion on an item not originally on its April 2, 2014 agenda, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners took steps to address short-term and long-term needs of the homeless.

The board voted to direct county administrator Verna McDaniel to work with community partners to address immediate needs of the homeless. [In general, McDaniel has budgetary discretion to spend up to $50,000 on professional services contracts, and up to $100,000 for any proposed goods, services, new construction or renovation.] The resolution also directs the administration to develop a plan by May 7 for updating the county’s Blueprint to End Homelessness, which was adopted in 2004 but appears to be dormant. The process of updating that plan is to be … [Full Story]

County Board Briefed on Shelter Services

Washtenaw County board of commissioners working session (Feb. 6, 2014): Following a large turnout of homeless advocates at their Jan. 22, 2014 meeting, county commissioners received an update from the leader of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, which operates the Delonis Center shelter near downtown Ann Arbor.

Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, Delonis Center, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Billboard on West Huron, facing eastbound traffic, to seek support for the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. The Delonis Center homeless shelter is located across the street. (Photos by the writer.)

Ellen Schulmeister, the Shelter Association’s executive director, called this season “The Winter of Great Effort,” with harsher weather and more demand for services. She described efforts to shelter the homeless in the short term, but noted that the broader goal is to find housing and provide support services to eliminate chronic homelessness.

Schulmeister reported that the county’s funding to the Delonis Center had been cut during the economic downturn, and she hoped that levels would increase. ”We need you to do that,” she said.

Washtenaw County government owns the building where the Delonis Center is located, and pays for maintenance. In addition, the county provided $51,230 for the Delonis Center in 2013 and increased that amount to $160,000 this year. The county funding is set to increase again to $200,000 in 2015 and remain at that level through 2017. The Shelter Association’s annual budget is $2.583 million.

Yousef Rabhi, chair of the county board, called the Delonis Center’s work ”inspirational,” but noted that the issue needs to be addressed by the entire community. He’s working to organize a summit, bringing together stakeholders from the government, nonprofits and other entities working to end homelessness. Rabhi said the effort should include representatives from the Ann Arbor District Library – because the downtown library serves as a de facto shelter during the day, even though that’s not the library’s purpose.

Schulmeister agreed on the importance of partnerships, adding that the barriers also include a lack of affordable housing and jobs. “It takes a community to house someone – it really does,” she said.

The Feb. 6 working session also included an update from Barbara Niess-May, executive director of SafeHouse Center, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. As with the Delonis Center, the county also owns the SafeHouse building and pays for maintenance, as well as providing funding for the nonprofit’s services.

Niess-May told commissioners that she’s been doing this work for 20 years, but this is the worst time for funding she’s seen for these kinds of programs. She pointed out that funding from the county has dropped to $48,000 annually through 2017, and she hoped that the amount could be increased. The total SafeHouse budget is $1.4 million.

Dan Smith (R-District 2) noted that the number of people that SafeHouse serves each year – more than 5,000 – represents almost 2% of the county’s population. He highlighted the fact that Washtenaw County has fewer domestic violence homicides per capita than any other county in the state. To him, a statistic like that directly connects to the county’s mandates because of the clear reduction of work load on the court system and jail, as well as the number of lives saved. He considered SafeHouse part of the county’s mandate for public safety and justice.

Conan Smith (D-District 9) observed that the board has discussed the option of a human services millage that would support services like those that SafeHouse offers. He encouraged Niess-May to include the county’s funding cuts as part of her communications to others in the community. It might lead them to support raising additional revenue for SafeHouse and other organizations, he said.  [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Gives Stopgap to Warming Center

At its Oct. 17, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to authorize $25,000 to support the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County‘s warming center. The money will come from the city’s general fund reserve balance. It will make up the gap between the roughly $56,000 in private donations that SAWC has been able to raise for the warming center and its $81,000 annual operating budget.

Of that operating budget, $600 is spent on utilities for laundry, and the rest compensates shift workers paid $12.57 per hour, and a half-time case worker, who is paid $15.96 per hour.

The warming center, located in the Delonis Center on Huron Street on the western edge of downtown Ann Arbor, can accomodate up to 50 individuals. It is open December through April, or any time the temperature (or wind chill) falls below 35 F degrees.

Closure of the warming center was part of the Shelter Association’s strategy to remain financially solvent in the face of cuts in funding from Washtenaw County, the state and federal government.

A number of specific negative impacts have been cited by Shelter Association staff that would result from a closure of the warming center: more police calls; increasing frustration among business owners; increased vandalism; backlash against homeless people; increased crime by desperate people; untreated mental health problems; increased use of emergency rooms for non-emergency care; and overcrowding of jails and court system.

The $25,000 allocated this year could be analyzed as follow-through on recent previous investments made by the Ann Arbor city council in the specific mission of the warming center.

For example, at its Nov. 5, 2009 meeting, the council passed a resolution that awarded a $30,500 contract with the Shelter Association and a $129,000 contract with Interfaith Hospitality Network, which operates a family shelter. The money was to provide case management and staff support for 25 additional beds at the Delonis Center and 25 additional beds in the rotating shelter program, as well as housing vouchers for eight families.

The council had received a presentation on the homelessness crisis at its Oct. 19, 2009 meeting from Mary Jo Callan, head of the county/city office of community development. She had alerted them to the likelihood that a funding request would be coming to them at a subsequent meeting. [Other Chronicle coverage: "Increased homeless sheltering effort needs volunteers"]

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, at its Nov. 4 2009 meeting, had authorized $20,000 to cover the “hard costs” – i.e., the actual beds – in connection with the initiative, which was seen as a short-term solution in the face of approaching winter weather.

Although it was not earmarked specifically for the warming center, on Oct. 6, 2010 the DDA authorized a $218,050 grant from its housing fund to the Shelter Association for improvements at the Delonis Center. The money paid  for new washers and dryers, lockers and chairs, an emergency generator, energy conservation measures, medical equipment and software.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

DDA OKs Shelter Grant; Mulls Committees

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Oct. 6, 2010): In its main business, the DDA board approved a $218,050 grant from its housing fund to The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County for improvements at the Delonis Center on Huron Street. The money will pay for new washers and dryers, lockers and chairs, an emergency generator, energy conservation measures, medical equipment and software. The board is still weighing approval of more than $113,210 for installation of solar panels and for computer hardware. By board policy, the DDA housing fund receives an annual $100,000 transfer from TIF (tax increment financing) revenues.


Left to right: DDA board chair Joan Lowenstein, and board members Gary Boren and Roger Hewitt. (Photo by the writer.)

Another main topic of discussion was transportation, which came in the context of recent transportation committee talks with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. The discussion with AATA dealt with the possible return of a downtown circulator service [formerly The LINK] and improved service to Ypsilanti, as well as an initial study of bicyclist habits in the downtown area. Related to bicyclists, the board heard from one downtown merchant during public commentary about dissatisfaction with the “art” bicycle hoops, as one example of the DDA’s lack of success in considering the end user in some of its decisions.

The board also mulled over a possible restructuring of its committee structure – currently the board has a transportation committee, a partnerships committee, an operations committee, and a capital improvements committee.

Restructuring those committees is being considered in the context of the possibility that the DDA could begin to take a more active role in development of city-owned surface parking lots downtown. That more active role is one possible outcome of the ongoing city-DDA discussions about the parking agreement under which the DDA operates the city’s parking system. The new structure under discussion would add an economic development and communications committee, while merging the operations and capital improvements committees. [Full Story]

Bringing Home the Fight Against Homelessness

Ellen Schulmeister, executive director of the Shelter Association.

Ellen Schulmeister, executive director of the Shelter Association, was honored at Thursday night's awards dinner. Behind her, from left, are Diane Davidson, Bob Guenzel, Judy Rumelhart and Chuck Kieffer.

It takes a community to end homelessness – that message was repeated like a mantra at Thursday night’s dinner for the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County at the Michigan League ballroom, which brought together many of the people responsible for working toward that goal over the past 25 years.

Foremost among them was Ellen Schulmeister, the association’s executive director, who was honored at the event – much to her surprise. [Full Story]