By Jordan Kopsky
In November of 2015, a program to help low-income families receive support and assistance for temporary homes was approved by voters in Kalamazoo County. But there are still about 100 families who don’t have anywhere to live due to a lack of available houses and an involved application process, according to Stephanie Moore,Kalamazoo county commissioner for District 1.
The program created was the Local Housing Assistance Fund (LHAF) and had a goal to help 100 families each year for six years. So far, 101 families have been housed since 2015, which was the first year after the fund was passed, according to David Anderson, Chair of the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission. It is now entering it’s second year.
“Our public housing entity is countywide,” Anderson, said. “It’s focus is on making resources available so that there could be safe, decent, quality housing for lower income people.”
However, while LHAF is designed to help hundreds of families, there are either not enough homes to house the families who qualify, or the families don’t have the proper documentation to even get an application for the fund, according to Moore.
“A lot of people who have been approved for the housing assistance support and have received a voucher, doesn’t necessarily mean that they have been housed,” Moore said. “And that’s only because in Kalamazoo we have a shortage of a housing stock, especially when it comes to decent and affordable housing.”
Public housing does have some decent, quality homes for people but a majority of them are not suitable for living.
“There is one management company that manages many houses in the urban neighborhood and every house that I took families to go see were infested with either roaches or bugs,” Moore said. “You’re talking about families that have to make a choice.”
Families shouldn’t be expected to live in a home like that, especially when children are involved, Moore said.
There can also be this stigma that people who are applying for this fund or need support service have done bad things to get to this point, but that’s not always true.
“Some people often think, ‘oh these are people who aren’t working, they made bad choices, have bad credit or they’ve been evicted,’” said Moore. “There’s a lot of circumstances that are above people’s control that keep them out of decent and affordable housing.”
Moore said that the housing is the most difficult part of actually getting families affordable and sustainable long-term living.
“Even with the housing fund, people have to go to Housing Resources, apply and before they even fill out the application, you have to go through all of these verifications, birth certificate, Social Security number, income, and if you don’t have that, then you don’t get the application,” Moore said.
Once the application is done, there is about a 45 to 60 day wait. If a family gets approved for support, the family has 45 days to find a home.
“It’s just an unrealistic time frame,” Moore said. “It takes a lot.”