On a given night, nearly 800 individuals in Kent County experience homelessness. In a given year, The Salvation Army Housing Assessment Program serves over 3500 of these individuals, referring them to one of over 20 community organizations working to prevent and end homelessness in Kent County. There are many such organizations throughout the state of Michigan, and each year about 23 AmeriCorps members commit to a year of service at one of these locations through the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH).
AmeriCorps was started in 1993 as a way for Americans to engage in national service similar to the Peace Corps, but in their own country. AmeriCorps members receive a minimal government living stipend during their service, and an education award upon completion, which can be used toward further education or to repay student loans. From October to December 2014, during the first quarter of service, this year’s 23 MCAH AmeriCorps members provided direct services to 898 clients and recruited 104 volunteers who donated 364 hours of service.
The Salvation Army Housing Assessment Program has four part-time MCAH AmeriCorps members serving in four areas: the Eviction Diversion Program, Housing Assessment Program, Outreach Team, and Congregational Partnership Program (CPP). In my role as the CPP AmeriCorps member, I work with families in our program by helping them contact landlords, search for housing, and apply for benefits as they begin the program. I also spend time contacting churches to recruit and train volunteers, and I provide support, communication, and monthly check-ins to existing volunteers in our program.
This week is National AmeriCorps week, when we celebrate the service of 75,000 AmeriCorps members across the nation serving in areas of education, healthcare, housing, environment, disaster response, poverty, youth and veteran services, and economic opportunity. For more specific stories from MCAH AmeriCorps members, check out our blog at https://americorpsvoicesforhomelessness.wordpress.com. For more information on AmeriCorps and how you can get involved, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps, or like and follow Michigan’s AmeriCorps on Facebook or Twitter.
If you or your congregation would like to participate in ending family homelessness in Kent County, please contact Raechel Wrona at [email protected] or 616-454-5840 ext. 3030
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