Skip to content

Department of Human Services Plays Key Role in Helping Homeless

October 13, 2011

This is the sixth in a series of articles on agencies that participate in the Midland County Continuum of Care.

No matter where Midland County residents faced with homelessness turn to for help, they will soon find themselves at the local office of the Department of Human Services at 1509 Washington St. in Midland.

In most cases the Department can give no direct help, bound as it is by strict regulations. DHS does, however, serve as the primary screener for other local non-profit agencies which do assist with housing.

People applying for help must first complete the State of Michigan Emergency Relief Application. In most instances they won’t qualify, so DHS issues a letter of denial. The denial, however, is the necessary letter of introduction to assistance from other sources. Local non-profits, such as Midland Area Homes, the Salvation Army, and churches, require the letter of denial before they will consider lending aid with housing.

According to Andi Pellegrini, Community Resource Coordinator for DHS, “Housing assistance is the hardest thing to get approved.” The Department can provide the security deposit and the first month’s rent, but only if the family has enough income for ongoing housing costs. Moreover, the family must have received an eviction notice.

DHS does help with utility payments, food assistance, and Medicaid. Home owners or people buying a home may also receive limited help with repairs, such as a new roof or furnace.

Mark Stevens, Director of DHS for Midland and Isabella Counties, remarked on the impact of the downturn in the economy over the past 5 to 6 years on his department. He said, “There are a lot of people who’ve never been to us before. They don’t understand.”

Stevens noted that DHS caseworkers are extremely stretched, each having a caseload of more than 600 clients. “People facing eviction,” he said, “should not wait until the last minute. It takes up to ten days to process the State Emergency Relief Application.”

Limited resources, both in staff and funds, mean delays in obtaining timely aid. “It’s very frustrating,” Stevens said. “When they are most needed, our resources are the least, but we do what we can.”

The Department of Human Services works with almost 30 agencies in the the Midland County Continuum of Care to provide services to the homeless or those in danger of losing safe, supportive, and affordable housing. Pellegrini said, “Frequently we partner with other agencies. We offer what we can, and then ask others to help, too.”

Stevens called attention a valuable new resource, both for those in search of help and for those attempting to respond. “Dial 2-1-1 Northeast Michigan” is a one-stop service to connect people to hundreds of health and human service organizations. The database at “2-1-1” is constantly updated and available online with a few keystrokes. “2-1-1” will be the subject of a future article in this series.

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: