ESCANABA - The Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), developed as part of Michigan's Campaign to End Homelessness, has provided assistance to nearly 15,000 people in Delta County, according to officials.
HPRP was created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in response to the current housing crisis. The HPRP initiative, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides assistance to individuals and families to help them find stable housing. The program allows community agencies to provide a mix of non-financial services and other fiscal subsidies, including help with rental or utility payments.
Since July 2009, 80 percent of individuals and families have received prevention services that assisted them in remaining housed. The remaining 20 percent, declared homeless under federal guidelines, received assistance with HPRP that reduced the duration they were considered homeless.
"In Delta County, HPRP is a great example of a successful effort to prevent homelessness in the first place," said Nisha Tebear-Coolman, homeless coordinator for the Salvation Army. "In situations where residents do lose housing, HPRP support returns homeless citizens to stable housing in a short period of time."
According to Tebear-Coolman, a total of 14,892 people were served in Delta County, with one-third of those being families. Most of the households that received assistance were headed by single women.
In addition, one-third of adults receiving HPRP assistance from the Salvation Army are working an average of 27 hours per week.
According to Tebear-Coolman, in the past year, 26 percent of those receiving HPRP assistance have had a disability of a lengthy duration. More than one-quarter of both homeless and prevention households reported high medical debt, and nearly as many reported an active medical crisis at the time of their HPRP intake, she said.
A statewide comparison of prevention and homeless clients showed many similar risk factors. A significant percentage of both groups experienced evictions and unemployment, a lack of basic education, in addition to having medical debt and an active medical crisis.
A higher percentage of those who found themselves homeless moved frequently in the year preceding HPRP enrollment. They also experienced transportation problems that impeded their ability to get to work.
She added all of the households receiving assistance had exhausted their family and community resources prior to seeking help.
The goal of the HPRP initiative is for individuals and families to find stable housing and become self-reliant.
"Program applicants seeking financial assistance are required to show they can become self-reliant with the limited funds made available to them," said Tebear-Coolman.
In the first year the program was in effect, 49 percent of participants were able to exit the program within that year. Many left the program after a short stay. In the first year, 51 percent stayed in the program as recipients of ongoing services.
According to statistics released by the Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness, most of those who left the program accomplished the initiative's primary goals.
Statistics show that from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, 90 percent of prevention clients remained housed, while 65 percent of those who were homeless achieved stable housing. Nearly two-thirds of individuals and families who were homeless were housed within one month of entering the program.
"Although risk factors present significant challenges, the program's performance is something we can all be proud of," said Tebear-Coolman.
Sally Harrison, director of Rental Development and Homeless Initiatives for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), said the program has been crucial at a time when Michigan residents are challenged by a struggling economy and a weak housing market.
Harrison added the challenges posed by the economy and weak housing market are changing the face of homelessness in Michigan.
"The HPRP initiative provides a crucial safety net between the economic storm we are experiencing and the well-being of the state's residents," said Harrison.
Michigan launched its 10-year Campaign to End Homelessness in 2006. It was the first state to do so. For more information concerning the Campaign to End Homelessness, go to www.thecampaigntoendhomelessness.org.