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September 06, 1984 - Image 44

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-09-06

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Page 4C - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 6, 1984
LOCAL CENTERS SHELTER STREET PEOPLE

Homeless struggle

for existence

By ERIC MATTSON
As one of the more affluent com-
munites in Michigan, Ann Arbor is the
last place you would expect to find
homeless people. But anywhere bet-
ween 100 and 500 indigents call the
streets of Ann Arbor their home.
Tim Mack, facility director of a
shelter for the homeless at St. Andrew's
Episcopal Church, said the homeless
generally fall into three categories:
those who are between jobs and are
down on their luck, those who were
released from mental health centers
with no place to go, and those who
possess few social skills.

According to Richard, one of the
greatest problems the street people
have to face is despair.
"EVERYBODY treats you like shit,"
he said, adding that after other people
lose confidence in you, you lose con-
fidence in yourself.
Darrell, another homeless person,
graduated from the city's progressive
Community High School, plans on
joining the Air Force, and becoming a
plumber because "they make $20 an
hour."
The biggest problem with having the
government raise you, Darrell said, is
that social agencies try to control your

'We want to try to avoid becoming a round-
the-clock place for people to live.'
-David Crary
Shelter Association chairman

other activities held there, the Mayor's
Advisory Committee on Emergency
Housing was formed to help find a site
able to deal with the homeless on a
more full-time basis.
After several months of searching,
the committee found a site on Fourth
Avenue, but nearby St. Nicholas Greek
Orthodox Church expressed opposition
to the plan citing as its reason, concern
over "the safety of our parishioners."
YET MEMBERS of the newly-
formed Shelter Association, a non-
profit corporation in charge of running
the new shelter on Huron Street, say the
homeless are no more likely to be
violent than any other group of people.
David Crary, chairman of the Shelter
Association's steering committee, said
many people still do not understand the
plight of the homeless.
"One major misconception is that
having something like (a permanent
homeless shelter) will attract people
from outside," he said. "Another major
misconception is that the people we
house are an unsafe group of people."
ACTUALLY, Crary said, there have
been almost no problems with the St.
Andrew's shelter, and a new shelter in
Ann Arbor is unlikely to attract the.
homeless from other cities.
After the Ann Arbor City Council
rejected a homeless shelter on Fourth
Avenue, it appointed the Shelter
Association to find another site, and a
former church at 420 W. Huron was
chosen as the permanent location.
Paul Brown, president of the Shelter
Association, said the former church is a
perfect place for a shelter because it's
fairly close to downtown, it's already
zoned properly, and the large open
spaces are easily converted to a dor-
mitory-style sleeping arrangement.
"THIS BUILDING is ideal," he said.
"It fits into all the categories."

Daily Photo by REBECCA KNIGHT
Homeless people rest overnight at the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church shelter, one of the centers that aids street people
in the city.

AMONG THOSE down on his luck is
Richard, a 36-year-old who spends most
of his nights at the church's homeless,
center. He has attended Wayne State
University and Harvard College, but
his alcoholism destroyed several
careers and left him without a place to
stay.
Fluent in Chinese and Spanish,
Richard hopes to eventually get his
degree from the University. Until then,
he is attending Alcoholics Anonymous
meetings, looking for a place to stay,
and trying to find a job.

personal life. "Once they give you
money, they think they can ask you
anything," he said.
IN ANN ARBOR, there are currently
four shelters for the homeless: Ozone
House, a home for teenage runaways;
Safe House, a shelter for battered
women and their children; Arbor
Haven, a Salvation Army homeless
shelter; and the shelter at St. Andrew's.
The St. Andrew's shelter has been the
cause of a great deal of controversy in
the last few months. Since the shelter
cannot open until late at night due to

To renovate the church, bathrooms
had to be installed on the first floor, and
showers had to be installed in the
basement. In addition, the main room
of the building had to be partitioned to
accommodate about 25 guests.
Since the 1950s, when mental
hospitals began releasing people who
were not a threat to society, the number
of street people has swelled greatly.
Brown said that although these people
are not a threat to society, they are of-
ten a threat to themselves.
BROWN SAID not institutionalizing
the mentally ill against their will is
laudable, but there is simply no place for

many of the people to go.
"Someday we've got to face up to the
reality that the humaneness of not in-
stitutionalizing people doesn't end when
they're released in the community," he
said.
The group in charge of the new Huron
Street shelter hopes to make the center
more than just a place to sleep at night.
JOE SUMMERS, who has been in-
volved in several shelter programs,
said day programs are necessary to
help the homeless reenter the main-
stream of society.
But Crary pointed out that "we want

to try to avoid becoming a round-the-
clock place for people to live," since the
guests could end up being totally
dependent on the shelter.
Crary added that he hopes to
establish some sort of job training
program, but the first thing to do was
simply to establish a shelter.
No one really knows exactly how
many homeless there are in Ann Arbor.'
Estimates range from 100 to as many as
500 homeless at any time in the city.
Solving the plight of the homeless ap-
pears to be impossible. As Mack said,
"the poor are always with us, the faces
just change."

. ........... ..... . - ------------------ -

Housing market aims for students

4

By DAVID VANKER
Imagine streets four lanes wide, lined
with imposing silver office buildings
and converted Victorian store fronts,
jammed with cars and pedestrians by
day and desolate by night-and you
have some idea of the future, according
to the most outspoken critics of local
development policy.
But in a city which has generated, in
alternate decades, a severe student
housing shortage and then a lukewarm
housing glut, all predictions
are received with a note of
healthy skepticism. The students
listen, then talk, then in-
variably go back to scouring the want
ads for the right place at the right
price.
BY ALL ACCOUNTS, things are
better for student tenants now than they
were even five years ago. The over-
night vigils outside management com-
pany offices to secure good apartments
have largely ended. And students
aren't quite as willing to put up with
housing code violations or outrageous
rents as they were in the past.
Still, the prospect for the future may
not be so bright. Some warn that the
Ann Arbor development boom may un-
do in a few months a favorable rental
market that took 15 years to develop.
"The trend in Ann Arbor is toward
less housing," said Woody Woodrow, a
housing planner working on the
Housing Reform Project within Student
Legal Services. "People who own
property can make more money with
commercial use than (with) residential
use."
"Ann Arbor will lose its atmosphere
of a small town and become a bustling
city. The stores will change from
places where students hang out to
stores for urban professionals."
The after shock of the current boom
will soon reach the student housing

market, Woodrow warns.
"Students will start feeling the pinch
within a year," Woodrow said. "If
things continue this way, we could have
another vacancy crisis and a landlords'
market."
ANN ARBOR CITY Councilmember
Lowell Peterson (D-First Ward)
said"gentrification"-the restoration
of delapidated urban housing by middle
and upper classes-could absorb some
housing traditionally occupied by
students. "The classic role of gen-
trification is to take affordable housing
near downtown," Peterson said.
During June, the Ann Arbor City
Council rejected an attempt by Peter-
son to stop developers from changing
the Braun Court apartment complex in-
to retail shops and office space.
"Braun Court is a prime example,"
Woodrow said. "They could make
more money if they changed it to com-
mercial use, so they went ahead and
changed it."
THROUGHOUT the 1970s, Ann Ar-
bor's apartment vacancy rate was
below one percent, making it one of the
tightest housing markets in the coun-
try. At the onslaught of the latest
recession, a number of factors-in-
cluding the economy, a growing
tenant-'s rights movement, and a
smaller student population-combined
to drive demand down. Two years ago,
the vacancy rate reached 13 percent;
this year it has declined to 4 percent.
Brenda Herman, Director of
Mediation Services in the University's
Housing Office, said the housing glut
changed the attitude of local landlords.
"Landlords started really hustling,"
she said. "They made cosmetic im-
provements on their properties and
were more flexible in their lease ter-
ms."
STUDENTS RENTING this year, she
said, can expect to benefit from the
changes in the market. Most students
should have a reasonable choice among
locations, prices, and room types.
Costs for off-campus housing this
year are only slightly higher than they
were last year. Efficiency apartments
average $268 per month, including a
modest allowance for electricity. One
bedroom units cost an average of $328
per month, and students should expect
to pay around $531 for two-bedroom
units.
THE COST PER person is somewhat
higher in small houses and lower in

large houses, compared with apar-
tments having a similar number of
bedrooms, according to a Housing Of-
fice survey. In some cases, these prices
do not include heating charges, which
can add between $25 and $150 per mon-
th to the cost.
Herman said students who plan to
leave town for the summer and wish to
avoid the hassle of subletting should
expect to pay at least 25 percent more
per month for an eight-month lease.
To make renting easier for the 34 per-
cent of students who live off campus,
the University Housing Office offers a
number of different services. The office
maintains extensive files on available
local housing and offers a referral ser-

vice for students looking for room-
mates. Housing officials have written a
standardized lease agreement which is
widely used by local landlords.
More than 650 local landlords have
been "certified" by the Housing Office,
which means they meet certain Univer-
sity standards and agree to use a stan-
dardized lease or an approved
variation. The Housing Office also of-
fers a free, non-binding mediation ser-
vice for landlord-tenant disputes.
"Overall I think we have excellent
landlords in this town," said Housing
Information Director Leroy Williams.
"We don't have to register them, but if
they meet our qualifications, we will do
it."

Tenants Union tries
to help city renters

4

The rise and fall of the housing market has perplexed many students trying
to rent accommodations, but recent downtown development may
permanently alter the situation.

By DAVID VANKER
The Ann Arbor Tenants Union is
makins a recovery-just in time, ac-
cording to its new co-ordinator.
"I can see two things as prtty clear in
this town," said Jeff Ditz who became
head of the student-funded group in
May. "One is the office space and high-
tech boom."
ANN ARBOR is currently the subject
of several development projectswhich
defenders of low-income housing say
will change the local renting situation
for the worse.
"What's also clear though," Ditz
said, "is that there are a lot of people
coming out to the development
meetings. It used to be that the
developer was the only one there."
The union has a tradition of getting
into the thick of housing disputes. It
was founded in 1968 when 1500 tenants
held a rent strike-hailed as the
nation's largest-over poor housing
conditions.
SINCE THEN, the AATU has been
Ann Arbor's leading tenant resource
center, operating on the MSA funds,
membership dues, and counseling fees.
During the fight to rezone the seven-
house development downtown on Braun
Court for strictly residential use, mem-
bers of the Downtown Neighbors
Association turned out en masse for

Michigan Student Assembly
Tired of all the decisions being made without you?
GET INVOLVEDR
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR MANY UNIVERSITY AND REGENTAL POSITIONS:

meetings of the city's development
commission and the City Council to
voice their opposition.
Ditz said he believes the same kind of
concern will funnel into the tenants
union.
"People are getting educated, he said.
"I think it's good that this threat is hap
pening now, to make people aware of
the situation.
The ruckus over local development
could serve as a much-needed rallying
point for the troubled union.
AS RECENTLY AS last November,
the union was embroiled in an internal
conflict concerning $7300 it receives in
Michigan Student Assembly funds.
Officials of the Tenant-Landlord4
Resource center, a group formed
early last year to assist the union in
training new members and counseling
tenants, claimed that the union had
stopped performing the services which
were the basis of its funding and asked
MSA to give the money to the center in-
stead.
Denunciations flew back and forth
between the groups, AATU members
staged a lockout of center officials, and.,
in the end, the TLRC disbanded,
leaving the union with an undisputed
claim to MSA funds.
LITTLE GOOD that did the union.
Until a few years ago, less than one
percent of Ann Arbor's housing went
unrented each year. In 1981-1982,
however, the vacancy rate soared to 13
percent, creating what many con-
sidered a renters' market in Ann Arbor.
Landlords began to bargain with
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