The Alpha House homeless shelter in Scio Township is addressing some important needs

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Alpha House is located at 4290 Jackson Road. photo by Lonnie Huhman

Scio Township is allocating some important funding toward helping an Ann Arbor-area homeless shelter expand its services through a renovation.

At the Nov. 1 special meeting, the Scio Township Board of Trustees approved the allocation of Scio Township's 2022 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to the Alpha House facility rehab project. The board also reallocated the township's 2021 CDBG funds to the Alpha House project.

The Sun Times News (STN) followed up with Alpha House about this news.

To learn more, STN connected with Ellen Schulmeister, the Executive Director at Alpha House.

She said Interfaith Hospitality Network operates Alpha House Family Shelter on Jackson Road.

“We provide shelter, food, clothing, toiletries and case management for adults with dependent children experiencing homelessness,” Schulmeister said. “We are a part of the Continuum of Care for people experiencing homelessness in Washtenaw County. We have six family rooms that can hold up to a family of four persons at one time. We receive referrals from the county wide centralized response when we have an opening.”

Their mission is to: support homeless families as they make a better life.

“We are focused on rehousing people,” Schulmeister said. “We help families obtain missing paperwork, find employment, apply for benefits, obtain health care, mental health treatment and recovery services.”

They also provide leasing support through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program called Rapid Re Housing where homeless families receive a temporary lease support in order to be housed quickly while Alpha House continues to provide support services till they can take over the rent on their own.

In the township board’s meeting packet it says the “County Office of Community & Economic Development has proposed that the Township's 2022 annual allocation of CDBG funds be allocated to Alpha House to help fund its facility rehab project. The County further recommends the reallocation of the Township's 2021 CDBG funds from the Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (CMH) Cherrywood Lane project to the Alpha House project for the reasons stated in the attached letter.”

Here’s the letter to township supervisor Will Hathaway from Tara Cohen, Washtenaw County’s Housing and Infrastructure Manager:

“This letter is to inform you that our office, on behalf of the Washtenaw Urban County, has executed a Grant Agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for 2022-2023 Community Development Block Grant funding in the amount of $2,157,568.00.

“With the execution of this grant agreement, this letter serves as acknowledgment that Scio Township has donated its 2022 CDBG allocation of $25,165 to Alpha House’s rehab project to expand their shelter facility.

“In 2021, the Township donated $16,000 of its 2021 CDBG allocation to Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (CMH) for an exterior rehab project of a residential facility on Cherrywood Lane. Ultimately, CMH was able to carry out this project without the use of CDBG funds. If the Township is amenable, we recommend reallocating the $16,000 to Alpha House to supplement the 2022 funds.

“We thank you for your continued involvement in the Urban County and welcome any questions you may have regarding your CDBG funding or any other matters.”

The total cost of the Alpha House project is expected to be about $130,000. The $25,000 from Scio Township will be very helpful, Schulmeister said. However, more is needed and at this time they are attempting to raise the balance of dollars in order to complete the project.

All together, Alpha House manages six families at a time in shelter and 35 families in scattered housing in Washtenaw County. Schulmeister said families stay at Alpha House for an average of 63 days.

“How fast we can re-house them depends on many factors including current availability of federal housing vouchers and affordable housing,” she said.

They usually “serve 80-ish families (which equals 240 people, including children) a year, unduplicated across both programs,” she explained.

A big reason behind Alpha House’s rehab project is the need.

Schulmeister said in the past 18 months the county lost a family shelter operation similar to Alpha House. It was Staples Family Shelter, which housed 6-7 families at a time.

“We are seeking to expand our operation by two families at a time (i.e. going from 6 to 8) in order to help replace lost capacity,” Schulmeister said. “We will not be expanding our foot print, but rather, converting two underused rooms into family rooms and converting a half bath into a full bath with a handicap accessible roll in shower.”

To learn more about Alpha House, go to https://www.alphahouse-ihn.org/.

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