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September 07, 1989 - Image 49

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-09-07

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The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition - Thursday, September 7, 1989 - Page 5

Unignorable:

the homeless

plight

* As shelters fill up,
Asset
City action wavers
By Lisa Winer
Daily Staff Writer
Patti, an Ann Arbor native who is the daughter of a professor and a
%oimer social worker, is homeless. The single parent never imagined she
would be poor, but the cost of day care drained the salary she earned as a
secretary.
She and the other parents at the Prospect Place family shelter in Ypsi-
lanti, were constantly faced with impossible trade-offs. "It was either I
paid my electricity or I ate. I had that kind of a choice," said Beth, another
parent at Prospect.
"The government is unrealistic about what it takes to live out here,"
said Patti. "The cost of living is so high here."
A homeless population that defies the stereotypical mentally ill and
drug addicted - that of the family - has increased over recent years, ac-
*:ording to reports from homeless shelters in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw
County. In a city that prides itself on its liberal attitudes, homelessness
worsens as a result of rents driven sky-high by gentrification, say local
experts on the homeless.
If the breadwinner of a family living at the poverty line becomes sick
or is laid off, there is no cushion for his or her family and "the family
falls off the social ladder," said Tom Dorrien, staff supervisor of the Sal-
v4tion Army's Arbor Haven Emergency Shelter.
"Conditions for people in that social stratum have become worse," he
said. "We see more and more people falling off the ladder."
Technological development in Ann Arbor has made the difference between
*ow and high income groups greater, said Cathy Zick, director of the Ann
Arbor Shelter. Housing has become nearly inaccessible over recent years
with the loss of 200 to 250 single rooms, she said. Zick pointed to the
old Embassy Hotel, which was sold and developed, and the number of
boarding houses that have closed and been remodeled for a wealthier
group.
The Ann Arbor Tenants Union reports that 50.8 percent of rental
households in Ann Arbor are "housing poor" - paying more than 30
percent of their income and/or living in substandard conditions.
Ann Arbor's Homeless Action Committee, which is comprised of a
majority of students, "brings community awareness to the problem of
4omelessness," says member Laura Dresser.
"We demand that the city do something about it, think about it, know
about it," she said.
Dresser likened Ann Arbor to South Africa, saying the two share a
policy of bringing in from the outside lower income people to do low-
skill jobs - "shipping in your work."
"We have to do something because Ann Arbor is becoming a city
where only rich people can live," she said.
HAC's major effort last year was an attempt to reallocate for housing
city funds targeted for a downtown parking structure. HAC picketed the
arking lot behind Kline's - the proposed sight for the structure -and
ttracted 100 people, shutting down the lot for a day.
City Council member Thomas Richardson (R-5th Ward) takes an
opposing stance on the issue of the homeless in the city. He would prefer
to see the parking structure built.
"These things are economic development spurs that are going to revi-
talize downtown," he said.
Richardson contests the severity of the picture painted of homeless-
ness in Ann Arbor. He questions the accuracy of the city's homeless
count, which was led by City Council member Kathy Edgren and Larry
Friedman of the Community Development Department. Richardson be-
eves they may have double counted, and speculates that the number of

ozone of]
By Debra Solomon
Daily Special Writer

fers help to teens

BILL WOOD/Daily
Ralph Bogle, the Administrative Assistant at the Shelter Association of
Ann Arbor, take a moment to rest before beginning the clean up of the
Huron Shelter. For many of the cities homeless, this is the place to
spend the evening.
homeless is much lower than the estimated 1500 originally reported -
more like 300 or 400, he says.
"There needs to be a lot more analysis of what the homeless situation
is," said Richardson. "The group I'm really concerned about is the middle
income group being priced out of the community."
Richardson says he is fairly satisfied with the city's efforts to help the
homeless. Within the past two years the city has provided money for the
YMCA, opened a day shelter, and opened a women's transitional house -
a longer-term residence that will, for the first time, provide a support net-
work for women.
But City Council member Ann Marie Coleman (D-1st Ward) feels
the city should be helping the homeless to a much greater extent, and
points to proposed initiatives the council has voted down - including a
tax that would raise money for housing, and a plan to build a residence of
40 affordable single rooms in the city.
"The basic question facing the city of Ann Arbor is: what kind of a
community do we want to be? The vote is still out on that. For some
people it is clearly a rich, exclusive community. For some people it is a
place where they would like to see many kinds of people living," said
Coleman.
"But the very fact that not much happens seems to (signal) that Ann
Arbor will continue to become more white, more rich, and more exclu-
sive," she said.
Brett, who is homeless, is staying at the Ann Arbor Shelter until he is
admitted to a treatment center for alcohol abuse.
"I think there is a lot of ignorance (about the homeless) in society.
Just because a guy is down and out doesn't mean he's got to be given a
bad label," he said. "It's really hard. Once you get down, you lose that self
esteem. That's the hardest part."

Jon has just been kicked out
of his house because his mom
thinks he is a drug addict. She
will no longer tolerate his behav-
ior. He is 17, and has nowhere to
sleep tonight.
Mary has been living on the
streets of Ann Arbor for two
i ! -w
years. She ran away from her
house because her stepfather was
verbally abusive. Tired of street
life and the horrors which accom-
pany it, she wants to get a place
of her own. Mary is 18.
Jan is 13, lives with her
mother, but feels that recently her
mom has been drinking exces-
sively and has stopped loving
her.
As I walk past the Graduate li-
brary, through the Diag, and
downtown towards Ozone House,
I leave my world of classes,
studying and partying, and enter a
completely different one, that of
these kids.
I open the screen door to the
House and see the three of them
on the couches. Jon is lying
down with his radio beside him
blaring Poison. His thoughts are
probably ranging from apartment-
hunting to drug deals. Mary,
wearing ripped clothing, her dirty
skin caked with makeup, seems
really tough. Jan, who sports bar-
rettes in her neatly brushed hair,
hugs her knees and looks down,
obviously frightened.
These kids, who come from
different racial and class back-
grounds, all have one thing in
common: they have come to
Ozone House looking for sup-
port, and they will find it.
Ozone House provides youth
and family counseling free of
charge. In addition, there is a 24-
hour crisis hotline for kids, and
have individual and family coun-
seling for anyone who needs
these services.

The youth who typically be-
come clients at Ozone are gener-
ally 13 to 20 years old, with the
average age being about 16. Their
problems range from lack of shel-
ter or job, to boyfriend and girl-
friend disputes, to suicidal ten-
dencies.
The organization is primarily
(outside of a small paid staff) run
by volunteers trained in empathy
counseling. A unique aspect
about Ozone is that the average
age of the counselors is about 21,
so the kids don't feel the genera-
tion gap that they might other-
wise feel with their parents or
with other counseling agencies.
Around town, many refer to
Ozone as the "cool place to go to
get help." Ozone provides not
only counseling, but emergency
food and shelter. Although no-
body actual sleeps at Ozone, it is
affiliated with the Youth Housing
Coalition which consists of a
number of families around Ann
Arbor who agree to house a
youth for a limited period of time
until he/she can either set up
something on her own, or if at
all possible, return to the parent's
home.
In addition to the Youth
Housing Coalition, Ozone House
is affiliated with Miller House, a
group home for kids. Ozone also
has a state-funded foster care pro-
gram.
As a first-year student, I found
myself more concerned with self-
advancement, both socially and
academically, than with the state
of the Ann Arbor community.
This is not uncommon, particu-
larly at a university like the U of
M, where the students are very
goal-oriented, and the campus is
isolated enough to reinforce the
fantasy notion that the University
is a microcosm of the real world.
This, in fact, is far from the
truth. In reality, there is home-
lessness, and pain.
While my mind centered on
my unhappiness in my dorm
choice, I forgot to be thankful
that I was sleeping in a bed, un-
like many of the Ann Arbor
See Ozone, Page 15

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