U.S. grants help East Lansing parks, programs people

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The City of East Lansing wants residents to know money is available to fund a program providing hot meals for senior citizens, aid people with rent payments, and build playgrounds in local parks. The money comes from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development through a Community Development Block Grant.

People gather outdoors at a city park

Nora Fleming

Proposals for Valley Court Park include reconstructing tennis courts, installing pickleball courts and Improvements to walkways and benches.

Community and economic specialist Matt Apostle said the money is given to cities with people of low and moderate incomes. It can be used on a variety of projects. The advisory committee, made up of various people from different councils in the community, makes recommendations and the City Council makes the final decision on how much money should be allocated to each organization. 

Beneficiaries include a Meals on Wheels program for senior citizens and the Michigan State University Safe Place. 

MSU Safe Place Advocacy Coordinator Alyssa Baumann said, “We were awarded $8,055 from this grant. This award will be used to cover some food expenses for shelter residents and shelter supplies, such as paper products, cleaning supplies, and personal needs items.

“… Additionally, the project will provide advocacy assistance funding for survivors who are either residing in the MSU Safe Place shelter or who are in need of support, but do not need shelter at this time.”

Man plays guitar under awning in park.

Nora Fleming

Grant money can help make parks gathering places for music.

Grants are awarded in categories with different caps.

“Homelessness services, services to seniors and the money that goes to MSU Safe Place falls into the public service [category] and that’s 15% of overall funding,” Apostle said. 

Some money has gone into improving parks around the city, such as Emerson and Stoddard parks. 

Community and Economic Development Administrator Adam Cummins said, “Stoddard is located in an eligible census tract. More than half the population in that census tract is low to moderate income. By improving these parks, it aligns with increasing access to amenities”

Resident Diana Tennes said, “The parks provide me with an opportunity to meet people I wouldn’t normally interact with.”

Overall, the city wants residents to know that there are resources available for them.

 “There’s assistance out there,” Cummins said. “One thing we’re trying to do is work on strategies to increase the general awareness of assistance. Lots of public agencies can provide assistance and we want people to find greater clarity on where to go.”

Apostle said a rent relief program can help East Lansing residents, but also to some students, depending on their financial situation. If students can tie their rent issues back to the COVID-19 pandemic and if they qualify as middle-to low-income individuals, the grant might be able to provide them some relief. This program is available through Capital Area Housing Partnership. and students are able to apply for COVID-19 emergency relief on its website

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