Understanding the Issue
Washtenaw is considered to be one of Michigan’s most growing and prosperous counties. We are also one of the nation’s most economically segregated.
A history of discriminatory housing and lending practices has resulted in major disparities and two distinct housing markets. In some areas, as many as one in three people live in poverty.
For a growing number of our neighbors, an affordable home is increasingly out of reach.
Who Experiences Homelessness in Washtenaw County?
At the end of 2021, approximately 2,600 people were experiencing homelessness in Washtenaw County. Thirty-eight percent were families with young children.
We have long known that people of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness. While 12% of people living in Washtenaw County identify as Black or African American, 61% of people accessing assistance for homelessness in the County identify as Black or African American.
How Did We Get Here?
A common thread among our neighbors experiencing homelessness is a lack of affordable housing.
A home is considered to be affordable if it costs less than 30 percent of the household income. Anything more forces people to sacrifice on food, health care, or other necessities. It also puts them at greater risk of eviction and homelessness, in the case of an unforeseen crisis.
More than half of Washtenaw County renters spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing.
Homelessness can happen to anyone. Extremely low-income households are most at risk.
Hourly wage necessary to afford fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Washtenaw County.
The number of hours per week a person would have to work a minimum-wage job (at $9.65 an hour) to afford the rent.
Why Does Washtenaw County’s Housing Crisis Matter?
We can choose not to see neighbors struggle to find or stay in their homes, but we are all still affected.
Here’s the cost to our communities:
The experience of homelessness threatens people’s health, safety and access to economic opportunity —as well as the futures of their families and the next generations.
When the only available supports for people experiencing homelessness are costly, publicly-funded crisis-response services, such as shelters and hospitals, our communities are robbed of valuable resources.
A Vicious Cycle
When this support is temporary and does not address the mental or physical health challenges experienced by many, people’s odds of experiencing homelessness again increase.
“I think that people need to understand that supporting Avalon is a benefit to our community. Avalon really believes that everyone should have stable housing, and they’ll fight with you to get there. We’re all better off when people in our community have homes. When they’re not constantly in survival mode.”
VERONICA BRANDON, FORMER AVALON HOUSING TENANT