August 22, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

Affordable Housing in MI

Helping families attain suitable and affordable housing and stabilizing our neighborhoods remains a priority in Michigan. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) shared its strategic plan, pointing out that affordable housing has become more problematic over the past decade.

MSHDA outlines the challenges many Michiganders face:

  • Lack of income to acquire the housing needed
  • Distribution of affordable housing has not matched the geographical demand
  • Thousands of Michigan residents remain on a waiting list for housing assistance support

The department’s strategic plan states that, “studies reviewed by MSHDA staff have concluded that homelessness imposes a far greater public financial burden than paying rent for those in need.”

Connecting people with mortgage loans is becoming a major initiative for a growing number of foundations. The Kresge Foundation partnered with Ford Foundation, MSHDA and a number of financial institutions to launch the Detroit Home Mortgage Program. The program is aimed at boosting the Detroit housing market by helping people not only renovate homes, but also purchase them.

When the program was announced earlier this year, Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, said, “Even though there are plenty of affordable houses across Detroit, many of them need extensive repairs and rehabilitation to become livable. Currently, lending rules prohibit banks from financing these renovations due to the low values of these houses. The Detroit Home Mortgage program seeks to reverse this trend by providing residents the borrowing power to both purchase a home and to renovate and invest in that home.”

Habitat for Humanity of Michigan continues to gather support from major funders, as Ford Motor Company Fund awarded them $100,000 this year. This spring, Consumers Energy pledged to contribute up to $100,000 to match Michigan residents’ giving in the organization’s Home Run for Habitat fundraising campaign to provide energy-efficient housing across the state.

Rotary Charities of Traverse City provided the funding support for HomeStretch, the region's first nonprofit housing developer. Since it began in 1997, HomeStretch has invested more than $13.3 million in private and public funds to support the creation of more than 100 affordable homes.

The CCM Economic Development Bond Fund, a social impact collaborative, will be a tool to help address the issue of affordable housing, which will allow for investments on a county basis.

On the state level, more than 30,000 Michigan homeowners have received help through MSHDA’s Step Forward Michigan forgivable loan program, allowing them to stay in their homes.

MSHDA outlines in their plan that there is still much more work to be done in this area. While the department processes about 1,800 single family home loans a year, their goal is to increase that number to 3,000 loans a year by 2020, in hopes of connecting more Michigan families with safe, affordable housing. Other goals of MSHDA include building partnerships to support growing programs and steadily increase its fund balance to provide increased support for affordable housing development and homelessness prevention.







Fostering Change

About 13,000 children in Michigan are in foster care at any given time. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services notes that their goals are to nurture foster children and if possible, reunite them with their families.

Many nonprofits around our state work to make that a reality, through programming and foster parent support and outreach. D.A. Blodgett- St. John’s in Grand Rapids offers a wide array of services including general foster care, counseling, mentoring and parent education programs, to name a few. Earlier this month, the organization was awarded a $479,404 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to further their mission to help families.

Through the organization’s Safe Passages program, the grant will help recruit and train recovery coaches to counsel parents who struggle with substance abuse and have children in the foster care system.

“Safe Passages will help improve successful reunification of children with their biological parents in a healthy and safe environment,” Becky Cienki, senior program officer at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund said. “The recovery coaches will help parents navigate the complexities of substance use treatment, while also educating child welfare staff about addictions and the recovery process. This model can fill service gaps and reduce costs for the foster care system, while improving health outcomes for some of Michigan’s most at-risk children.”

This grant is one of 11 grants the Michigan Health Endowment Fund awarded to organizations working to improve behavioral health care in Michigan, which the fund refers to as its first proactive initiative. 

A growing number of our CMF members are getting involved with this issue. For example, the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation awarded $200,000 to implement a standardized mental health screening, assessment, treatment and follow-up process for Wayne County foster children.

Mental health options and care for foster children are essential, as according to The Children’s Center in Detroit, one in five foster children has a diagnosable mental disorder. The Children’s Center works with their community partners to address mental, physical and behavioral health issues, as well as abuse, neglect and poverty challenges for children in the greater Detroit area.





Power of Data

An ongoing case study by The Annie E. Casey Foundation is examining the power of data and the importance of breaking down the data to understand any racial trends and/or disparities in our communities.

The foundation’s study, Disaggregating Data by Race and Ethnicity Improves Outcomes for Children and Communities of Color, shows breaking down data into subgroups is important in the public and nonprofit sectors. The foundation explains, “typically, public institutions and systems report data on whole populations. However, greater access to and breakdown of racial data helps to underscore racial trends and disparities more clearly and will provide greater accountability in policymaking.”

The foundation stresses, and their study’s data shows, that the collection, analysis and use of race and ethnicity data should be an integral part of any strategy, initiative or legislative agenda affecting children, families and communities. It’s noted in the foundation’s materials that there’s more than 3,100 counties in the country and the best way to find out what’s happening is to examine the data they’re gathering. The specific and detailed methods of data gathering are important to all nonprofits who strive to make a difference at the community levels.

The study revealed that while Minnesota was the top ranked state in child well-being in the Kids Count Data Book (2014), when the state’s data was broken down by race it revealed that 3 percent of white children were living in extreme poverty, but up to 21 percent of American Indian and 18 percent of African-American children were living in the same measured poverty conditions.

The report stresses that data is almost never perfect at the neighborhood level, but stakeholders should collaborate, use the data that is available and choose data points that can influence key decisions and policies, leading to better outcomes.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation believes that if the process of separating data “is used by all stakeholders serving children and families, the data can become an analytical tool to manage and efficiently allocate resources necessary to help children and their families thrive.”

Read the full report.








Michigan Gateway Community Foundation Announces The Buchanan Promise

The Michigan Gateway Community Foundation in Buchanan, Michigan, has announced The Buchanan Promise scholarship endowment fund for local students, funded by a $7 million bequest from the estate of Walter E. Schirmer, Jr., whose family established the foundation in 1978. Schirmer, who died in May, was a 1954 graduate of Buchanan High School and long-time advocate of the area.

Beginning with the class of 2017, every Buchanan High School graduate enrolled in the district since kindergarten or first grade will be eligible to receive $10,000 over four years for college, vocational training school, technical programs at a community college, and apprenticeship programs. Graduates who have lived in the district for at least four years and attended a Buchanan Community school will receive $7,000, with a sliding scale that will depend on the length of residency and enrollment.

The foundation says that “the key to driving positive community effects in addition to the obvious advantage for Buchanan Community Schools is to design and pursue a deliberate plan for community alignment, reaching out to the greater community for widespread support and understanding of the positive potential, and marshalling local resources to benefit the greater community as a whole.”

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