Reflections on Avalon’s Teen Group

Avalon’s Teen Group is designed to be a safe space for all Avalon youth residents ages 12-17. We meet weekly at our Pauline Community Center for an hour or more on Thursday evenings. A typical day at Teen Group consists of snacks, group discussion, music, art projects, workshops, cooking lessons, video games, trips to Washtenaw Dairy for ice cream and occasionally, movie nights or field trips.

It’s refreshing to be a part of such an intimate space that fosters friendships, education, support, and community. The joyful sound of camaraderie that radiates from the room during friendly-yet-intense Uno and Connect Four tournaments causes everyone in the room to easily lose track of time. The youth and staff compete strategically for first place on the winner’s board, which can be found posted on the wall of the community center.  The privilege of being able to share the teens’ space is something I’m very conscious of.  There’s a mutual respect that Avalon staff share with the youth, which is demonstrated through our efforts and commitment to listening to their needs non-judgmentally. The teens appreciate having a space where they can be heard, accepted, and introduced to new and exciting experiences.

Avalon Housing, Detroit

Teen Group in the D

The partnership that Avalon has developed with EMU’s School of Social Work/Social Work 350 classes has played a huge role in strengthening Avalon’s youth engagement over the last two years.  These EMU student volunteers have been very instrumental in assisting Avalon with providing resources and opportunities to the youth who attend Teen Group. Each group of students who have previously volunteered to work with our youth have ended their service projects with a renewed sense of gratitude.

I am fortunate enough to feel that same sense of gratitude on a weekly basis. I believe that the youth recognize Teen Group staff as trusted adults and ongoing support, even outside of Teen Group.  The quarterly staff versus youth basketball game is gearing up soon for the kickoff game of 2017.    The teens actually seem to enjoy challenging myself and staff from other departments to keep up with their energy on the court! This spontaneous tool of youth engagement has now become a tradition. I’m looking forward to creating new memories and sounds of laughter during upcoming youth events.

By Layton Price


Posted in Resources, Supportive Housing, Youth and Teen Programs | Leave a comment

Why I’m Participating in the Big House 5K: Linda Rama

The Big House 5K: Trail to the Victors presented by Toyota on Sunday, April 9, will benefit six local, non-profit organizations selected based on the support they provide to our Washtenaw County community.  Avalon is one of those beneficiaries, and Linda Rama is running on our behalf.  Here’s why, in her words:

 My name is Linda Rama and I’m running in the Big House 5K for Avalon Housing.


I’ve been running competitively since I was 18 years old. Through the years, I’ve done a lot of races, broken PRs and gotten plenty of those number tags. But I loved getting medals…I’ve been a tenant with Avalon for 20 years. I know the organization very, very well. They’ve helped me and a lot of other people who would’ve otherwise been homeless.

You can read Linda’s full story here.

To register for the Big House 5K: Trail to the Victors present by Toyota and further support Avalon, visit  Registration closes at midnight on April 6.


Posted in In the News, Supportive Housing, Uncategorized, Volunteering | Leave a comment

Housing is Healthcare: Collaborating with Packard Health

One of our mantras at Avalon Housing is “housing is healthcare.” We believe that having a residence is an important foundational step for addressing one’s health. Many of the tenants we serve have lacked access to this fundamental right. One cannot get bedrest without a bed!

Assessing and addressing the healthcare needs of our clients is a top priority. We find that the health of our communities, broad and small, begins with the health of our individuals. Avalon Housing has recently added our first doctor to our team, our first nurse practitioner and our first onsite health clinic, all through our partnership with Packard Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center and certified Patient-Centered Medical Home by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  A Patient-Centered Medical Home is based on a philosophy that trusting relationships between patients and their health care providers helps ensure excellent care.  It’s also a model of primary health care that emphasizes coordination and communication among providers, improved accessibility to care and a commitment to helping patients make informed decisions about their health.

Dr. Ravi A. Vadlamudi, MD, and Gina Dahlem, PHD, FNP-C, have joined with Avalon to provide home visits and office visits for Avalon residents and clients. The introduction of medical house calls has immediately filled a huge need in our community.  Many of our tenants lack access to basic transportation options, or perhaps their health has severely limited their mobility. In-home medical visits have enabled primary care access for a great number of clients who had not previously been engaged in their healthcare. We also offer flexibility in scheduling and little wait time for appointments. We know that regular and proactive engagement with a primary care physician leads to improved outcomes for all, and we are excited how our efforts to remove barriers have started to show results.

Dr. Ravi between patient visits at Miller Manor

Dr. Ravi between patient visits at Miller Manor

Here at Avalon, we know the real difference is the people.  Gina and Dr. Ravi are the practitioners that make the dream a reality.  We do everything in our power to remove the tangible barriers to connect a client with an appointment, but all appointments are voluntary.  The patient must want to participate in the exam, and ultimately must want to make the lifestyle changes involved or opt for the medical treatments suggested.  Unfortunately, many of our clients have a history of harmful, negative, or scary experiences that have caused them to disconnect from medical care.  They may have been judged, harassed, or verbally berated.  They may have been dismissed as a lost cause, or told they are beyond help due to social stigmas on addiction or mental illness.

Ravi and Gina are both outstanding in their field for their dedication to underserved people, and renowned for their bedside manner.  They are true humanitarians and have spent many impactful years serving at-risk populations.  They work with clients, and their Avalon support staff, to tailor a treatment plan that will meet the client’s needs. Avalon Support Coordinators and other Services staff will often join appointments, as invited, to help place the medical plan in the context of the client’s life. The Avalon team also facilitates communications and referrals with specialists, such as mental health or occupational therapy, and provides the follow-up to support our clients each step of the way.

In this coming year, we will continue to tailor our offerings to meet our residents’ needs.  We are in the early construction phase of a true medical clinic at Miller Manor, to replace the pop-up style care being given in office conference rooms.  Gina is the most recent addition to our team, and we are thrilled to offer a female practitioner and more flexibility in hours and scheduling. We believe that meeting our clients where they are leads to healthy individuals and healthy communities.

By Ryan Walker

Posted in Healthcare, Supportive Housing | 1 Comment

The Case for Investing in Affordable Housing: Danielle’s story

Congratulations to Danielle Toth, Peer Support Specialist at Avalon Housing!  The story of Danielle’s journey from homelessness towards a new home with her daughters is featured in the CHCDF’s 2017 report, A Place to Call Home:  The Case for Increased Federal Investments in Affordable Housing.  The CHCDF, or Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding, is a coalition of organizations that advocate for federal housing and community development funding for low-income families and communities nationwide.  Through this report, Danielle’s story and many others will be shared with members of Congress this week.  The CHCDF will urge members of Congress to work together to prevent impending funding cuts for affordable housing and community development programs and ensure that these programs receive the highest allocation of funds possible. 

We’re proud to have Danielle as a staff member and are so grateful that she’s willing to share her story. 


Danielle, Avalon Peer Support Specialist

You can download the full report

and/or the success stories:

You can also download a pdf of Danielle’s story

Posted in Affordable Housing, Homelessness, Supportive Housing | Leave a comment

Homelessness in the UK and the US: Translantic Practice Exchange Reunites

Last month the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) invited alumni from the Transatlantic Practice Exchange to gather and learn from one another as part of the NAEH Ending Youth and Family Homelessness conference.  The Transatlantic Practice Exchange, offered by the National Alliance to End Homelessness and Homeless Link in the United Kingdom, and funded by the Oak Foundation, aims to develop future leaders in the homelessness sector and establish transatlantic best practice connections.   Coming together this week with other Exchange participants was a rare opportunity for each of us to reflect on the lessons learned from our experience in the UK and look at ways we’ve implemented change locally as a result.  As a group, we discussed how a strong social safety net dramatically impacts the scope of “rough sleeping” (sleeping outside) in the UK.  We also observed how service users were far more integrated into provider operations and decision making in the UK, and how there’s more of a palpable sense of urgency around homelessness in the UK than here in the US.

During last month’s reunion, I also reflected on my participation in the Exchange three years ago.

The Exchange was one of the most important professional development opportunities of my career, and it has had a significant impact on the work we do at Avalon.  As the saying goes, “you can’t manifest what you can’t imagine.”  During my visit to the UK, I saw a window into what’s possible in the homelessness sector.   The team I worked with in the UK served individuals with complex needs whom they characterized as “chronically excluded adults.”  The team did not mince words when describing the epidemic of systems failure that led to, in their words, chronically excluding adults from silo-based systems of care.

When I walked into a health clinic in the UK, however, I saw a filing cabinet full of syringes for people to openly access. I watched a man come in off the streets and receive compassionate, professional care from a provider in a single payer healthcare system.   I learned about a broad spectrum of publicly-funded drug and alcohol treatment options and sat in on a legally mandated service user forum where “experts by experience” gave feedback on operations.  Nan Roman, Director of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, joined us for this conversation and reminded us that getting out of our community and learning what others are doing is a way to “twist your frame.”


British street graffiti courtesy of Banksy

Much of my Exchange experience has helped shape our work at Avalon. Our annual tenant pancake breakfast, where we ask tenants to give us in-person feedback about their experiences with Avalon, serves as our version of the service user forum I saw in the UK.  We now have peer supports, people with lived homelessness experience who support our tenants and improve Avalon’s operations with their expertise. We have a partnership with Packard Health Clinic to provide “backpack medicine” to our tenants, increasing primary care access and care coordination.

We’ve implemented concrete harm reduction strategies such as syringe access and Narcan distribution. We’ve also supported our local community’s efforts around advancing harm reduction, which include a harm reduction learning collaborative and an upcoming harm reduction conference.These are just some of the services now offered by Avalon that were inspired by my experience in the UK.

My colleagues at Avalon share a collective intent to better the lives of those we serve. What’s our philosophy for getting there? A core belief exemplified during the Exchange is that as care providers in the homelessness sector, we need to focus not on the impairment of the individual, but rather on the systems that fail to meet individuals’ needs. If we improve the systems for the clients we serve, then we improve them for everyone.

By Aubrey Patino

Posted in Avalon Values, Homelessness, Supportive Housing | Leave a comment

Homelessness in Schools and Society: U of M and Avalon

What do academic success and homelessness have in common? How can Supportive Housing services and educators help increase the academic success of children who have experienced homelessness? Avalon Housing’s Family and Youth Services’ Youth Programming staff and University of Michigan School of Education professors Simona Goldin and Debi Khasnabis have been hard at work over the last 18 months planning a course that looks at these and other questions. The result of our efforts is “Homelessness in Schools and Society”, a U of M class that launched this January. In this course, students will work closely with our Youth Program staff to take a hard look at the intersection of education and poverty, and how we can work together with our local public schools and parents to support Avalon’s youth.

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Ann Arbor Public Schools recognizes the importance of this work and was eager to get on board with our endeavor.  Students from the class have already spent time at STEAM and Eberwhite Elementary schools, observing teachers and kids to gain a better understanding of the real-life, practical work of teaching and learning in public schools. Now, they will spend eight weeks working directly with our Youth Program staff in Avalon Housing’s two after school programs, at our Carrot Way and Pauline Boulevard community centers.  The students will observe the ways that Avalon Housing serves and supports children and their communities, while spending time in class learning about the effects of homelessness on children and the way it impacts their learning.

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Students will also focus on in-depth projects addressing authentic problems our residents may face, across a number of different areas: schooling, community support, advocacy, law and policy. We are grateful to have our partners at the University of Michigan’s Family Law Clinic working with us as well, to educate students on various legal and child welfare-related barriers that low income families often face.

Through these experiences, the students will develop understandings of the linkages between work being done in Avalon’s youth programs and in public schools, as well as opportunities for substantive cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional work that can support the needs of our kids. At the end of the semester, students will do presentations to both Avalon and AAPS staff on what they have learned, where they see our greatest strengths in our collaborations and where they see opportunities for growth.  They’ll also share their ideas about how Avalon and the public school systems can collaborate and learn from each other to create a strong support system that moves seamlessly from our schools to our community centers.

If you’d like to learn more about Avalon’s partnership with U of M’s School of Education, or how you can support Avalon’s efforts to end homelessness, please contact us at

By Lauren Velez, Family and Youth Services Team Leader



Posted in After School Program, Homelessness, Supportive Housing | Leave a comment

Reflections on ubuntu at Avalon

Stop by Avalon Property Management some time and you’re likely to hear a funny word come up in conversation:  ubuntu. Ubuntu is something we talk a lot about at our meetings; we even had t-shirts made with an ubuntu slogan on them (“I am because We are!”). Ubuntu is a philosophy with roots in South Africa, and in its essence, it means that we’re all connected to one another. So why do we talk about it so much in Property Management?

Avalon's Property Management team

Avalon’s Property Management team

Let me tell you a story.  A call came in that a resident in one of my properties was not well. I arrived at the house shortly ahead of the ambulance, and I found one man supporting another on the stairway just inside the front door. The resident who wasn’t well had been trying to make it down the stairs, but he was dizzy and trembling and he only made it part way. His housemate was keeping him steady and wiping the sweat from his face while they waited for help. When the EMTs showed up and saw how these two guys were wedged in the stairs, with one able-bodied dude supporting his housemate, they asked if the one could help the other make it to the bottom. “I’ll carry him to your ambulance if you need me to,” he responded. It was a simple, beautiful moment. That’s ubuntu in action.

One of the things about these two guys is that they haven’t always gotten along. They often still don’t, to be honest. Being in community is hard work; for these two, it’s sometimes grueling. But on Thanksgiving, the one who had been ill that day several months before roasted a turkey for the whole house. That’s ubuntu, too.

Desmond Tutu says that ubuntu is the awareness that “my humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.”

Ubuntu is not something that Property Managers or Support Coordinators deliver to the apartments and communities we’re connected to. It is already there. Our work is to notice it, and, in a fashion, to name it. When you look closely, you realize that Avalon is a network of people whose lives are charged with the spirit of ubuntu. This is as true for staff as it is for our residents. It is realizing that Property Managers and Support Coordinators are absolutely reliant on another; that Maintenance is no less essential than Community Builders; that the accountants, the developers, the communications staff… we’re all interdependent on one another. And most essentially, we are all here because of the residents whom we have the privilege to walk beside in our properties and scattered-sites. In and through them, the inter-dimensionality of our web is formed and sustained.

But if we’re being candid, then we have to confess that in our busyness, we sometimes overlook our intrinsic mutuality. We get lulled into thinking that because we sign leases with folks, that it means being a landlord is what this work is about. Or we think because someone is a client, that healthy boundaries are the last word on those relationships. Thank goodness it isn’t so. The reality is far richer and more complex!

One principle of permanent supportive housing is that everyone with an apartment is a lease-holder. But ubuntu says that a lease can’t do the work of connecting us to one another. Not really. It’s our humanity that does. And I need everyone in the Avalon community to teach me what that looks like, day-in and day-out. It might be a guy holding a trembling housemate on a narrow stairwell. Or it might be a social worker holding the hand of a resident as he passes gently away, his beloved Miles Davis playing on a cell phone on the pillow by his head. I’ve seen that, too.

Ubuntu blog, hands holding tree

Source: Living Ubuntu Blog

Of course, not every day is strung together with these luminous moments. How easily we get lost in the minutiae on the one hand, and the next crisis about to knock the wind out of us, on the other! I admit, on those days, I’m liable to forget this ubuntu business. I may not even want to hear about it. Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche movement, says that true community comes about when we stop hiding our insecurities, and when we give up trying to prove our worth to each other. So I’m beginning to think that it’s when I’m feeling most disconnected, most worn down, that I’m in the best possible place to experience what ubuntu is truly about. Because when I forget, there’s always a resident or coworker to remind me. They needn’t have ever heard this funny word. Because it happens here. This place is charged with it. If you have any connection to Avalon whatsoever, then you know what ubuntu is. And if you forget, don’t worry. I’ll remind you. That’s ubuntu.

By Joel Barson

Posted in Avalon Values, Resources, Supportive Housing | Leave a comment

Big House 5K Run – Join Avalon!

Avalon is thrilled to be a race beneficiary of the 2017 Big House 5K Run! This year’s run, sponsored by Toyota, will be held on Sunday, April 9.  The race starts at 8:30 am at Schembechler Hall and ends at the University of Michigan’s Big House stadium.

Big House 5K Run

In 2016, $115,000 was donated to six local, non-profit beneficiaries of the race.  Avalon looks forward to partnering with U of M and engaging the Avalon community to raise awareness of our cause of ending homelessness in Washtenaw County.

All Avalon friends and family can participate in the Big House 5K!  Whether you’d like to run or walk, make a donation or volunteer with us during the event, we hope to see you on April 9.

For more information and registration, visit:

To make a donation, visit:

You can also download a 2017-Big-House-5K-Flier.

Check in with us on Facebook and on our website during the upcoming weeks for updates about the race and opportunities for volunteering with Avalon at the event.  GO BLUE and GO AVALON!

Posted in Homelessness, In the News, Supportive Housing, Volunteering | Leave a comment

Employment and Volunteer Opportunities

Are you interested in getting involved with a passionate and dedicated team working to end homelessness in our community? Avalon is currently accepting employment applications and volunteer orientation reservations for our Winter 2017 programming.

Pauline ASP April 15Volunteer with our After School Program
Avalon’s After School Program needs just 1.5 hours of your time per week to help make a real difference in the education of Avalon youth who face a number of challenges as a result of experiencing homelessness.
That’s where you come in!

Our After School Program meets on the following days:

  • Monday – Thursday from 3:30-5:00pm at 31 Carrot Way Apartments
  • Monday – Thursday from 4:00-5:30pm at 1500 Pauline Apartments
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays from 4:00-5:30pm at 701 Miller Apartments

To join our Winter 2017 Volunteer Orientation on January 10th contact Andrea at to reserve your spot today!

Employment Opportunities with Avalon Housing
To apply for any of Avalon’s open positions listed below, please send a resume, cover letter, and professional references to:

Or mail to:
Avalon Housing
Attn: Personnel
1327 Jones Drive, Suite 102
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

No phone calls please.

Posted in Employment, Volunteering | Leave a comment

Thankful for Strong Community Support

tenant-family-sits-together-at-pauline-community-center-dinner-copy2We are so thankful for the amazing outpouring of community support around Giving Tuesday this year. Your support of Avalon Housing makes our work possible. With your help, Avalon provides affordable housing and comprehensive support services for members of our community who struggle with homelessness and physical and behavioral health problems.
In 2016, Avalon has welcomed over 70 new households into our supportive housing community. We are proud to now be supporting a total of 654 people in their efforts to move beyond homelessness and achieve long term stability. Our case managers have spent hours in the emergency room, at court, and even in the delivery room, with people who have no one else to accompany them.
We make this commitment because we know that our advocacy and support can make the difference between stability and a return to homelessness.   Thank you for your inspiring commitment to practicing radical acceptance of the most vulnerable in our community.
Posted in Giving Tuesday, Resources, Supportive Housing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment