MUSKEGON, Mich. — Federal pandemic relief dollars secured by the City of Muskegon could dramatically improve the situation in which hundreds of children and teens experiencing homelessness find themselves county-wide.
A Tuesday hearing before the City Commission prioritized developing and implementing resources which would be used to address the problem.
“Eight hundred children who don't have a home to call their own in Muskegon County that are in school,” said Oneata Bailey, Muskegon’s Community and Neighborhood Services director. “That is troubling. It's astounding.”
In many cases, with no safety net to catch their fall.
Bailey said help could prove difficult to find.
“Right now, our resources are zero for our youth,” she explained. “This situation is dire in our county and we have to do something.”
The Community and Neighborhood Services head believes plans to resurrect resources that hit the cutting room floor years earlier could prove a source of fresh hope for the often underserved population.
“Resources, mental health, health, just the whole gamut of education and jobs.”
Webster House once served as a resource for homeless, runaway and at-risk teenagers.
The facility was dissolved in the mid-2010s, however, following a funding crisis.
“Whatever the dynamics of the household… youth had somewhere that they knew they could go overnight,” Bailey said. “It's not a shelter, but it is a resource.”
Bailey also detailed plans to bring back Child Haven, a facility for younger children not immediately placed with families.
The former temporary home for the abused and neglected closed when a pipe burst inside its rented Terrace Street building in 2013.
The building blocks come in the form of $1.2 million in federal pandemic relief dollars appropriated through an American Rescue Plan block grant known as the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, awarded independently of the approximately $23 million Muskegon secured in general ARP funding.
The program was specifically designed to craft solutions for those caught up in the post-pandemic housing crunch.
“We’re also trying to assist with our continuum of care and providing some rental assistance, not funding, but housing units,” Bailey related. “We want to have a place for them to go, and then transition them to another place that's more stable. That's our focus.”
The ARP funding, which had yet to be released, pending project approval, was expected to cover the initial costs.
The City planned to sustain programming in the long-term, in part, with grant funding.
“It's enough to make a difference,” Bailey asserted. “It's enough to start.”
The project still required the regulatory green light from the Department of Housing and Urban Development at the time of publication Tuesday.
The hearing, Bailey said, marked primarily another opportunity to hear from the public and tailor the work ahead.
Anyone who wished to address the plans was asked to contact city leaders online or via mail.
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