July 15, 2019

Monday, July 15, 2019

Child Homelessness in MI

A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan estimates as many as 15,565 Michigan children, infants to age 4, are homeless. That estimate is 159 percent higher than what’s reported in the shelter system.

Researchers share that the difference in numbers comes from differing definitions of homelessness; the larger figure in the report includes children who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, not just those in shelters. Therefore, we may have more children experiencing homelessness than was previously understood.

The report examines the issues at play for Michigan’s littlest learners.

The authors state that “trauma such as homelessness can change the makeup of a developing brain, leading to lifelong educational implications before a child even starts school,” with the achievement gap seen in high school “already observable in children as young as 9 months old.”

Data at a glance:

  • It’s estimated that 4 out of every 5 children who are experiencing homelessness are not enrolled in an early childhood program.

  • Of children experiencing homelessness in preschool, 54 percent present with a major developmental delay.

  • By 17, half of children who were at one point homeless have repeated at least one grade.

  • Nearly half of school age children in Michigan who are experiencing homelessness were chronically absent last school year, compared with 19 percent of students who have housing.

  • The three Michigan counties with the highest percentages of young children experiencing homelessness – Alger, Lake and Arenac – are all considered rural counties.

The report provides policy recommendations to support children from their early years and set them up for success in school and beyond.

Highlights of recommendations include:

  • Adequate data collection: Create a unified database that captures families’ housing situations through more than just the shelter system and connect it to several state agencies, school districts, childcare centers, hospitals and more.

  • Coordination of services: Engage a care system with a two-generational approach that includes food banks, shelters, housing service agencies, early childhood education and care providers, and organizations that offer physical and mental health services.

  • Early childhood education opportunities: Lawmakers should ensure families facing homelessness are identified and prioritized for enrollment in the Great Start Readiness Program and other initiatives.

  • Housing discrimination: While the Housing Choice Voucher program subsidizes rent costs for low-income families, recipients may face discrimination from landlords who can choose not to accept the vouchers. Lawmakers should support legislation that makes it illegal for landlords to reject tenants based on their income source.

“If we’re going to adequately address the issue of homelessness among young children, we first need a complete picture,” Jennifer Erb-Downward, senior research associate for Poverty Solutions said. “Right now, it is easy for kids to slip through the cracks and go un-identified because we have no unified system of support and we rely on reporting from a variety of organizations. The state needs a unified database—one that examines inequities based on race and ethnicity—in order for us to truly develop and fund resources to save kids.” 

Want more?

Read the full report.







Community Partners Playbook for Opportunity Zones

We’re getting a look at a new playbook for community partners which provides best practices for Opportunity Zones (OZs).

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) published the latest resource, with support from the Ford Foundation. This comes as funders, including The Kresge Foundation continue to highlight the need for equitable community development approaches in OZs.

The Kresge Foundation recently addressed the U.S. Conference of Mayors about how communities can position themselves for OZ deals with social and racial equity in mind.

Aaron Seybert, social investment officer at The Kresge Foundation recently published a commentary piece expressing concerns about the current model of OZs.

“My colleagues and I have been vocal that while this provision has potential to be a real boon to historically under-resourced communities, it could also reinforce many of the systemic barriers to economic mobility,” Seybert said. “More concerning, we will never know if this incentive is helping or hurting, because as it is built now, we won’t have publicly available data to evaluate it at the transactional level.”

Seybert shared the news of the recent ProPublica investigation which revealed an area in Maryland was mistakenly classified as an OZ though it only has a 4 percent poverty rate.

NPR reports: “Bipartisan bills have been introduced in Congress that would impose reporting requirements and force the government to track whether benefits are actually flowing to the communities that are in need.”

With legislation in limbo, tools and best practices continue to surface to help guide community involvement and partners in this work.

“Community organizations and other stakeholders—LISC included—know that without careful planning and the right incentives and supervision, the initiative could lead to accelerated gentrification and displacement, benefit mostly investors with capital gains, and generate little meaningful economic activity in the communities where we work,” LISC states in its playbook.

The playbook provides an overview of a six-step process. We’re sharing a few highlights where funders can engage in this work:

  • Hold a stakeholder meeting: A convening in Arizona included public and private officials from banks, cities and investment firms to weigh in on how to leverage OZs for projects that are beneficial to communities. The conversation included strategies for how OZs could support rural communities, tribal land, airports and startup businesses.

  • Embarking on a plan for work in the OZs: The planning phase is crucial to ensure OZ investments have an equity lens. This phase outlined by the playbook follows best practices for community development planning, including mapping your OZs to understand where they are and how they overlay with neighborhoods, identifying existing community plans and building community consensus around investments to improve key areas. This is an extensive section; you can dive in more to the key steps here.

  • Collaborating to build a pipeline and leverage local expertise: In Indiana they have formed a consortium to organize and facilitate mission-driven OZ activity. The consortium is supported by local banks and philanthropy; the group is focused on encouraging investment in low-income rural and urban areas, transforming distressed communities and brokering technical assistance and workforce training.

  • Develop impact metrics and encourage transparency: This goes back to the efforts The Kresge Foundation has been leading in the sector to encourage reporting and transparency in OZs. LISC says stakeholders should consider measuring equitable economic development, affordable housing, community service, benefits, engagement and more.

LISC writes, “The Opportunity Zones incentive requires the right kind of management, community engagement, partnership-building and oversight to establish projects in OZs that are a boon to residents and local businesspeople as well as to investors.”

Want more?

Check out the full playbook.

Connect with LISC’s OZ resources.

Learn more about Kresge’s OZ work.







The Media and Our Democracy

With politics in full swing on the national stage a new report released by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation reveals that a majority of young adults (ages 18 to 34) are “concerned about the impact of news on our democracy.”

“The study suggests that young people’s confidence in the media is waning, with a majority saying that some news organizations pose a direct threat to our democracy. This erosion of trust has important implications for the way young people will seek and receive information in the future,” Sam Gill, vice president for communities and impact, Knight Foundation said.

Key findings:

  • Of those surveyed, 88 percent of young adults said they access news at least weekly with 53 percent accessing it daily.

  • An interest in politics is a factor in news consumption, with 82 percent who are somewhat or very interested in politics accessing news daily.

  • Approximately 74 percent of young adults said they get news through their social media platforms. African American young adults are more likely to use Twitter to get their news than their white or Hispanic counterparts. African Americans are also more likely to share news with others, 68 percent of those surveyed said they do so weekly.

  • Many young adults say they believe news sources are biased and have a liberal or conservative slant, even their favorite news source, with 57 percent of Democrats viewing their favorite news source as liberal and 36 percent of Republicans viewing their favorite source as conservative.

  • Approximately 73 percent of young adults surveyed in the research said their least liked news source divides our country and 64 percent said their least liked source hurts our democracy.

  • Many young Hispanics and African Americans say the news does not portray their race or ethnicity accurately and they are less likely than whites to see people of their race or ethnicity in news coverage.

  • 54 percent of young adults use their favorite news source to determine their candidate of choice. Young African Americans are more likely to rely on news to inform their decision making for a candidate or policy.

“The study shows that young people believe some news sources are actively hurting democracy and corroding national unity,” the foundation said in a release.

This latest research comes as the Knight Foundation is continuing its commitment to rebuild trust in media and democracy through its support of local news organizations. Earlier this year the foundation announced an expansion of its major initiative which is focused on creating a strong support system for local newsrooms in business development, training, networking and capacity building resources.

As CMF reported in previous coverage, connecting people with information about what’s happening in their community to make informed decisions has become a growing challenge. Several CMF members are supporting community-centered journalism publications around the state to meet the need and lift up positive stories from the community.

Want more?

Read the full report.

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