Lansing group looking to reduce homelessness

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The Lansing Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development is working to reduce homelessness in the Lansing are as part of a prevention plan.

At a public meeting Wednesday, the Lansing PND, as part of a homeless assistance grant, discussed to prevent homeless people from living in shelters by putting them into housing or help prevent people from losing their homes.

Dorothy Boone, the development manager of the PND, said this plan is new on the part of the federal government, since the stimulus.

“The first experiment with this was in 2009,” Boone said. “Congress chose to continue funding in a smaller amount on an annual basis.”

Boone said the PND, for shelter and homeless prevention services, is being funded $174,713.

“The money funded is for this upcoming fiscal year,” Boone said.

The upcoming fiscal year for the city of Lansing begins July 1, and ends on June 30, 2013, according to the city of Lansing website.

Boone said $96,000 will go to shelters and $36,000 will go to assist people in rapid re-housing to prevent homelessness.

“$35,195 will be aimed to preservation of existing housing as opposed to people being displaced from housing,” Boone said.

Efforts to decrease homeless rates have been hampered by Lansing’s economic struggles in recent years, said Boone.

“It has increased the pressure towards homelessness,” Boone said. “Rates have not increased dramatically.”

Doris Witherspoon, the senior planner for the PND, said all communities in Michigan were charged with bringing homelessness rates down and are in the process of implementing such plans.

“We have a 10 year plan to reduce homelessness and are in the process of doing just that,” Witherspoon said.

Witherspoon said has more information on the homeless prevention program they are implementing.

Bob Johnson, the director of the PND, said there are a number of agencies, including the PND, working together to get a full accounting of individuals who are in need of permanent and stable shelter.

“You have families with children and they are going from house to house staying with aunts and grandmothers,” Johnson said. “Getting a full accounting of who they are can be challenging. But we work with the homeless shelters throughout the community to address the needs.”

Johnson said there is a part of our homeless population that needs services beyond housing.

“Connecting them to those support services is really important,” Johnson said. “So working with the county health department and department of human services is really critical to help address the other issues our homeless population is confronted with.”

Johnson said the problems are not just about the housing.

“It’s about the life skills,” Johnson said. “Whether it’s about managing the house or it can be dealing with mental health issues for certain members of the household. There are workforce development needs in some cases.”

Johnson said they want to change the face of homelessness.

“We have a collective responsibility to do what we can to assist and bring stability to housing,” Johnson said.

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