For Michiganders facing homelessness in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, help is on the way, federal and state officials said Thursday.
Michigan is set to receive more than $150 million in new federal grants for rental assistance, the creation of affordable housing and other initiatives meant to decrease homelessness, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge announced.
Using funding from the American Rescue Plan, the sweeping COVID-19 relief package signed by President Joe Biden last month, HUD is sending nearly $5 billion in grants to states, cities, counties, and other entities throughout the country to address homelessness.
“These funds could not come at a more critical time,” Fudge said during a Thursday press call with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Randall Woodfin.
“Homelessness in the United States was increasing even before COVID-19,” Fudge continued. “On a single night in January 2020, more than 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States. We know the pandemic has only made things worse.”
In addition to rental assistance for tenants and the creation of affordable housing, the funds can be used for a variety of supportive services and transitioning hotel and motel rooms into shelters, Fudge said. The funds must be used before 2030.
“Housing’s a right, not a privilege, and I’m proud of the steps the Biden administration is taking to make that value a reality,” Whitmer said during Thursday’s press call.
“For state and local governments, this means more resources to help people,” the governor continued. “For people experiencing homelessness, this means a place to call home.”
Michigan will receive a total of $150,643,110 in HUD grants. Detroit will see one of the largest chunks of that money, about $26.5 million.
Other cities that will receive funding include: Flint ($3.2 million), Grand Rapids ($4.6 million), Lansing ($2.7 million), Kalamazoo ($1.8 million), Muskegon ($1.2 million), and Saginaw ($1.6 million). Funding will also be sent to Genesee County ($3 million), Oakland County ($10.3 million), Macomb County ($6 million), Wayne County ($10.2 million), Washtenaw County ($4.5 million), and Kent County ($3.3 million).
A full list of the grants can be seen here.
The funding will be a life-changer for many of those experiencing homelessness, officials said during Thursday’s press call.
Prior to the pandemic, 61,832 individuals experienced homelessness across Michigan in 2019, according to the state’s “Ending Homelessness in Michigan Annual Report,” which was released in January. Officials said they expect that number to have risen during the pandemic as residents were laid off or furloughed and have been unable to afford their rent or mortgage.
The U.S. Census Bureau in March reported that about 29,000 Michiganders between March 17 and March 29 said it was very or somewhat likely they would be evicted in the next two months because they haven’t been able to pay their rent.
In addition to the $5 billion announced Thursday, Fudge said HUD will soon provide details about funding from the American Rescue Plan for emergency housing vouchers. These two funding streams, the federal and state officials attending Thursday’s press conference said, are poised to play a crucial role in addressing emergency situations that have surfaced for families throughout Michigan and the United States during the pandemic, such as being unable to pay their rent or mortgage, as well as provide long-term solutions to homelessness, such as creating more affordable housing.
“Communities across the country will have the resources needed to give homes to the people who have had to endure the COVID-19 pandemic without one,” Fudge said.
Brown, the senator from Ohio, emphasized that the pandemic has shed light on the fact that homelessness not only affects a single person or family but an entire community, and country.
“We know if people don’t have a safe place to live, it puts them more at risk of getting sick; it hurts public health; it hurts their children; it hurts their ability to eat good food,” Brown said, adding that the $5 billion will translate to “getting people into emergency housing, converting a motel to a shetler, and breaking ground on new permanent supportive housing.”
On top of the funding announced Thursday, Fudge noted the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan that Biden proposed last week would further address systemic issues surrounding homelessness and housing instability. If passed, the plan would, for example, provide $213 billion for housing programs, including $40 billion to improve public housing throughout the country.
“Housing is about so much more than shelter,” Whitmer said. “It’s about dignity and stability and opportunity…I know we can pass the American Jobs Plan and make a difference in people’s lives.”