ADVOCACY AT OZONE HOUSE
Ozone House advocates at the local, state, and federal level for policies and budgets that improve the lives of young people experiencing homelessness and other types of crisis.
Local Safety Net Services Being Defunded in Washtenaw County:
We are shocked and appalled to see that Washtenaw County is proposing to defund critical homelessness services including shelter for families, youth, and survivors of domestic violence along with dozens of other critical social services in our community. The funding being cut historically supported Ozone House to serve 403 young people experiencing homelessness and crises annually via the following programs:
- Emergency Shelter Program for Youth (ages 10 – 17)
- Transitional Housing for Homeless Youth (ages 17-21)
- Permanent Supportive Housing Services
- Rapid Rehousing for Homeless Youth
- Family Support Program
- Ypsilanti Youth Drop-In Center
Cuts to these essential services will disproportionally impact young people of color in our county given that nearly 80% of our clients are BIPOC youth. The services at risk have extremely high rates of success for young people including; 95% of minor youth exiting to safe and stable housing, and 100% of transitional aged youth increasing their life skills to support their transition into adulthood.
This is particularly distressing to see happen while at the same time the county is currently sitting on tens of millions of unspent relief dollars that could be used to support these critical services for young people today.
Joint Statement from the Washtenaw Housing Alliance and Dozens of Local Frontline Social Service Organizations.
We are deeply concerned about the impact of funding cuts to many non-profit human services agencies and - most importantly - the vulnerable people they serve across Washtenaw County, including unaccompanied minors, families with minor children in crisis, and transitional age youth (TAY) 17.5-21 that historically do not do well in programs designed for adults, low-income seniors, survivors of domestic violence, people who are food insecure, those living in rural communities, and those with mental health and physical health challenges. We urge you to take action!
Next Wednesday, June 1st, during its regularly-scheduled Board meeting at 7:00pm, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on proposed funding recommendations for the New Human Services Partnership (NHSP) - Safety Net grants. 31 frontline organizations requested over $8M in the NHSP safety net funding, and recommendations are to fund just 7 organizations, for a total of $1.7M per year. In contrast, the precursor to the NHSP, Coordinated Funding, provided $4.3M annually in safety net grant funding in 2018 to 36 agencies. And earlier this year, County staff shared with the public, and applicants, that $3M would be available annually for NHSP safety net grants. Even the 7 proposed grantees for NHSP funds will be funded at levels less than what they received prior to the pandemic.
Critical pandemic emergency relief resources such as eviction prevention funds and emergency food benefits are ending. Thousands of our neighbors will rely on these organizations now more than ever. Costs have gone up for human services agencies to be able to serve their clients. The County received over $70M in ARPA funds, and could choose to use remaining unallocated ARPA money to fully fund the safety net services request TODAY.
Here is a summary of the NHSP funding recommendations and the Washtenaw County Board Resolution to be voted on June 1st. A more detailed cover letter about the funding application and review process can also be found here.
- Email the County Board of Commissioners TODAY to ask them to contribute more money to the New Human Services Partnership in order to fund more safety net programs. More information and a sample email can be found here.
- Submit public comment using an online form here before the meeting Wednesday, June 1st.
- Speak at the Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, June 1st during public comment, which is at the beginning of the agenda. Tell the Board of Commissioners it is unacceptable that they are only recommending funding for 7 agencies to provide critical safety net services throughout the county. The recommendations do not include funding for critical safety net services such as emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and other critical services. More information about speaking can be found here.
- Stay tuned for additional advocacy alerts from Ozone House and the WHA. The City of Ann Arbor is expected to vote on these same recommendations at its June 6th City Council meeting. We will provide an update as soon as we hear the County Board of Commissioners’ decision about these funding recommendations.
Increase Safety for Runaway and Homeless Minors by Aligning with Federal Guidelines - HB 5756:
Michigan is currently one of only a few states that does not follow federal guidelines that allow licensed service providers a 72 hour window to accept unaccompanied into their care before requiring parental notification. Currently, we are required to get parental permission within 24 hours. Since youth homelessness is often a crisis of relationship with family members, many young people cannot get this permission, which then forces Ozone House and similar service providers to turn kids away. This may place them back in unsafe home environments or force them into more dangerous situations on the street, such as sexual exploitation and abuse.
We are asking for your help to pass HB 5756 which will allow licensed homeless youth shelter programs to, “Provide safe harbor for youth up to 72 hours with or without parental consent.”
Please contact your state representative and ask them to support HB 5756 today.
Essential Funding Needed for Runaway and Homeless Youth Services in Michigan
As part of the Michigan Interagency Council on Homelessness (MICH) and the Michigan Network for Youth and Families (MNYF), we are asking for statewide investments that will provide the chronically homeless with access to stable housing, increase services to homeless youth, help communities access federal funds, and prevent families from becoming homeless.
Michigan State's budget for Runaway and Homeless Youth services has stayed nearly flat for 20 years. A recent study from the University of Michigan’s Center for Poverty Solutions found that there were 22,444 high school aged youth experiencing homelessness in Michigan.
We are asking for a $3 million annual increase in funding for runaway and homeless youth programs in order to expand service areas, improve capital needs, and increase staff retention for the 20 agencies that, like Ozone House, provide vital services to youth and families across our state.
Help Ann Arbor Decide How to Use Its $24 Million American Rescue Plan Funding
The City of Ann Arbor is receiving $24M in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Anyone who lives, works, or spends time in Ann Arbor can give input on the best use of this funding by completing this survey.
Along with our partners, Avalon Housing and the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, we are asking you to advocate for the following funding priorities:
- At least $1M for housing for homeless households
- At least $3.5M for property acquisition for affordable housing
- At least $4M for human services funding support (COORDINATED FUNDING SUPPORT)
You can prioritize more funding for any of these categories, including other human services, like universal basic income and/or an unarmed response program, which you may be interested in supporting.
Click here to take the short survey.
- You can see real-time survey results here
- City webpage about their ARPA Funding Process (link)
- Short videos about each project (link)
Michigan Needs More Safe and Stable Housing for Youth and Families
Michigan State's budget for Runaway and Homeless Youth services has stayed nearly flat for 20 years. There is also a serious lack of affordable housing in many parts of our state, including here in Washtenaw County. According to the independent policy center Michigan's Children, "For every 100 extremely low-income renters, there are only 37 affordable and available units."
The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have only increased and highlighted the need for more funding for stable housing for young people in our communities.
Request for increased funding for runaway and homeless youth:
- We are advocating for a $3 million annual increase in funding for runaway and homeless youth programs to expand service areas, improve capital needs, and increase staff retention for the 19 agencies that, like Ozone House, provide vital services to youth and families across our state.
We are calling on our elected officials to build budgets that adequately fund some of the most critical services in our community.
Elected Officials Must Protect Transgender Youth
Members of the Michigan Senate led by Senator Theis introduced a new bill that will discriminate against transgender students. This harmful bill will only increase the stigma that transgender young people already experience. At Ozone House, we know that young people thrive when they experience safety, love, and are celebrated for who they are. Perceived rejection is a strong predictor of negative health outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth.
Gay and transgender teens who were highly rejected by their parents and caregivers were at very high risk for health and mental health problems when they become young adults (ages 21-25).”
Highly rejected young people were:
- More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide
- Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
- More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs, and
- More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases compared with gay and transgender young adults who were not at all or only rejected a little by their parents and caregivers – because of their gay or transgender identity.
Ozone House is here to protect trans youth.
We are calling on our elected officials to create policies that protect transgender students instead of discriminating against them.
New Bill Seeks to Limit Teaching about Race, Racism, and Slavery to Michigan Students
Ozone House is disappointed to see elected officials put forth Senate Bill NO. 460 that threatens to withhold vital funding for public schools if educators teach their students about some of the most painful aspects of our country’s history, such as slavery, racism and oppression.
We work with young people every day, many of whom are young people of color, we know how important it is for students to learn about the historic events and actions that have shaped the world they live in today. The young people we serve are often interacting with systems (housing, healthcare, education, criminal justice, etc.) that have been shaped by racist policies and practices. These inherently racist systems have led to many of the inequalities they experience in their daily lives.
According to the National Council for the Social Studies these bills seek to “silence social studies curriculum that explicitly addresses the centrality of slavery in the historical narrative of the United States.” They go on to say that, “aversion to slavery in the social studies curriculum only serves to miseducate students who will carry the mantle of being citizens in our democratic society. Recognizing the origins, evolution, and legacy of slavery is vital to understanding how racial inequality and oppression currently operate in our society. Without this knowledge, it will be impossible for students to make informed and reasoned decisions and engage in deliberations that advance the common good.”
We are calling on our elected officials to provide more resources for K-12 education, not fewer, and to allow teachers to share with their students the full scope of U.S. history and the American experience.
Now is the time to end LGBTQ+ discrimination in Michigan
In Michigan right now, it is legal for an employer to fire an employee and for a landlord to deny housing or evict someone if they even suspect that person identifies as LGBTQ+. There are currently zero protections against this discrimination for LGBTQ+ people, including our youth. LGBTQ+ and youth-focused organizations across the state have seen an increase in requests for help due to housing and employment discrimination, being denied access to basic services and bullying in schools. Our LGBTQ+ young people deserve safety, security, and opportunity for employment and housing. Today, Michigan lawmakers re-introduced a bill to amend our state-wide civil rights act, Elliott-Larsen, to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. This bill would ensure that each and every LGBTQ+ person in Michigan is protected from discrimination and harassment while applying for a job or looking for a home. Please show you support for this effort by telling the legislature to quickly move forward to add these protections for our LGBTQ+ friends, family and neighbors in Michigan.
We do not do this vital work alone, but partner with other non-profits and advocacy groups to ensure that young people have a seat at the table to shape the systems that impact their lives. See our full list of partners here.