Group collaboration targets homelessness in Oakland County

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published November 10, 2020

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Despite a spate of balmy temperatures in the early days of the month, the weather is inevitably going to become colder, darker and snowier as Michigan heads into the depths of winter.

November is Homeless Awareness Month, and the Alliance for Housing, Oakland County’s Continuum of Care, is working to end homelessness and increase the supply of sustainable and affordable housing.

The alliance, formerly the Oakland County Task Force on Homelessness and Poverty, is a collaboration of private and public organizations, including emergency and warming shelters, health care providers, housing developers and programs, municipalities, governmental agencies, food programs, faith-based groups and more.

One of the main hurdles the group currently faces is providing a better option for overnight shelter. Due to the pandemic, the winter overnight shelter that rotated weekly among 10-13 churches throughout the county is canceled.

A local motel currently serves as a temporary solution, where guests and staff are regularly tested for COVID-19, but the alliance is looking to identify a more permanent venue.

The group anticipates that a shortage of affordable housing in the county and the Dec. 31, 2020, expiration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on eviction will potentially swell the numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness.

“I’m working with the county administration to identify some funding to help support renting a facility and also acquire appropriate (personal protective equipment), dividers and other resources that are necessary to meet the needs of our homeless population,” Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman David Woodward, D-Royal Oak, said. “This is just one piece of a much more comprehensive initiative.”

On Oct. 31, Woodward said the group was looking at a site in Royal Oak and one in Ferndale, and he was confident that there would be a working plan in place within the next week, after press time.

Pastor Nate Sjogren, of Genesis the Church in Royal Oak, said the collaboration provides “a really easy on-ramp” for anyone wanting to serve the vulnerable homeless population, whether by having a soccer team make bagged lunches or volunteering to provide medical assistance.

“A lot of the population of our volunteers won’t be able to volunteer this year because they either are at risk or have family members at a high risk for COVID, so as much as we have an army, that army is going to be shrunk down this year,” Sjogren said.

For more information about Homeless Awareness Month or how to get involved, visit www.oaklandhomeless.org or contact Alliance for Housing Executive Director Leah McCall at lmccall-alliance@oaklandhomeless.org.

To sign up to get or give help, visit mycovidresponse.org or call (248) 600-9541. To volunteer to pack, load or deliver food boxes, visit www.lighthousemi.org/how- to-help/volunteer-opportunities or call (248) 872-7282. To sponsor a family for Christmas, send an email to kimber@kidsempowered.com or call (248) 840-9858.

Donations of coats and boots can be dropped off anytime on the porch of the Hope Hospitality and Warming Shelter offices, located at 155 W. Rundell St. in Pontiac.

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