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September 09, 1993 - Image 46

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-09-09

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Page 2-The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition-City-Thursday, September 9,1993
Situation remains poor for Ann Arbor's homeless
Population is increasing as Ann Arbor's liberal reputation attracts hoards ofijobless citizens

by Barb McKelvey
Daily Staff Reporter
Paul Lambert spoke slowly but ea-
gely. He is short and overweight, with
little hair and an almost-beard that peg
him as a shopping-mall Santa. Lambert
carried an overstuffed bag filled with
thermoses,recyclableCoca-Colabottles
and a few books.
"I was one of the lucky ones," he
said.
Three years ago, Lambert lived in a
dangerous section of Detroit. He was
often awakenedto fire alarms announc-
ing that his neighbor's house was burn-
ing' in Lambert's neighborhood, ar-
son was a past time.
1Iwasliving withan alcoholic and I
justgotsickofit-she was beating me
up and taking my money," Lambert
said. "So I called a friend up, and he
offeredtobring me money and foodifI
neededit.Instead,Iendedupmoving in
with him in Ann Arbor."
Paul is now active in the Homeless
Action Committee, a group that helps
theunfortunate through political means.
He finally gothis own place in Janu-
ary, after he obtained a Section Eight
Voucher. This document allows him to
pay one-third of his income for rent
while the government makes up the
difference. Lambert said the process of
obtaining the certificate took a long
time because there are few vouchers,
and he was "dumped off' the waiting
list several times.
While Lambert now lives in the
pleasant, government-funded Avalon
Housing, many are not so fortunate.
Depending on how "homelessness" is
defined, there are between 250,000 and
3,000,000homelesspeople in the United
States. In Ann Arbor, there are about
1,500 - a large homeless population
fora town its size.
The Huron Shelter's Paula Baldoni
gave some reasons for the high number
of homeless residents in the commu-
nity. "Ann Arbor is the county seat. It is

mately 25 people are on the staff, with
volunteers from the University and city
communities.
There are 50 beds in the shelter, and
a capacity to accomodate 80 people.
Usually, 35 to 50 people-mostlymen
- stay each night.
The Ozone House aids homeless or
displaced youth ages 12tol19 in emer-
gency situations. Training and volun-
teer coordinator Laura Brown said that
many of the teenagers are"throwaways,"
who move from relative to relative.
Some know they must be out of their
parents' house by the time they are 18,
so they leave earlier.
While at Ozone, the younger chil-
dren learn assertive communication,.
while the older teens are taught inde-
pendent living skills. The centeraids in
family reconciliation if possible. When
necessary, it refers teenagers and fami-
lies to other agencies.
Attempts at finding residences for
Ann Arbor's homeless have also been
made, with some success. Along with
Avalon House, there is also the Division
Street House for mentally ill homeless
people.
"I love living in Avalon Housing,"
Lambert said. "I can come and go as I
please, and it's clean and quiet. There is
privacy here, and that's important."
While many organizations point out
successes like Lambert's, most also
concur that a more far-reaching solu-
tion must be reached.
Sergeant Jinkerson proposed a ser-
vice plan, in which homeless would do
service work that would make the town
nicer and make them feel more valu-
able. He also noted that spending alittle,
now on homeless projects would save a
lot later.
It is clear to Apple that prevention in
the formof low-rent housing and govem-
ment housing as well as provisions for the
ill and addicted would go a long way.
"As long as there are homeless,",
said Baladi, "it's never enough."

S
0

Richy, a homeless man, tries to escape the February cold of Ann Arbor by lying on an exhaust vent next to the Dental School. EVANPETRIE/Daity

seen as a kind of Mecca and is consid-
ered to have jobs," Baldoni said. "A lot
come here looking for employment and
get stuck."
Lambert cited the high quality of
living here and pointed to the many
facilities in the University town that are
available to anyone. [[AC'sMike Klein
said that Ann Arbor's reputation as a
liberal, progressive city may also be a
cause for the large homeless popula-

tion.
The mostagreed upon reason forthe
large number of Ann Arbor homeless is
the most simple - a lack of affordable
housing. The studentpopulation, as well
as the professional community, serve to
drive up housing prices.
Nationwide and locally, the number
of homeless has been growing for the
past 10 to 15 years, partially due to the
mentally ill being deinstitutionalized.

Largely because of this, the homeless
cause a disproportionate number of inci-
dents for their number. "I'd say we get
about five, six, seven calls a day that
concern them," Ann Arbor police Ser-
geant Harry Jinkerson said. These are
mostly due to trespassing, public drinking
or loitering.
"It's not illegal to be homeless,"
Michigan Student Assembly (MSA)
representative Michael Apple said.

Apple is part of the Housing Law Re-
form Project, an MSA committee. "But
many of the things you have to do when
you are homeless are illegal...the total
effect of laws make it illegal to act as a
homeless person."
In response to Ann Arbor's high
demand, several organizations have
been established to help. The Huron
Shelter, set up in 1982, has both a day
program and a night shelter. Approxi-

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