Week 5: Always Learning – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 5: Always Learning

This week I have done a lot of independent work and background research. I have always been passionate about doing research, especially surrounding social justice issues. That is why I got involved with UROP my freshman year at U of M and that’s why I applied to DCERP. So far, my internship has not been as research oriented as I thought. I have no complaints about this because I am loving what I am doing at the NSO, but it has been very nice to be back where I’m comfortable, doing research.

For the past week, I have been able to research how cities are decreasing homelessness and what Detroit, and the NSO specifically could do better. One interesting case is that of Houston, Texas. Over the past few years, the city has decreased homelessness by 63% and though Detroit is moving in this direction, the improvement has been nowhere near this drastic. From what I have been reading, I have learned that Houston’s mayor is one of the leaders of the project to house previously homeless people in the area. It is very helpful to causes like this to have someone influential in the government to fight for them. Their mayor has been able to push for federal, state, and city funding to put towards their “housing first” initiative that has gotten so many people off of the streets and into permanent housing. A lot of this work was aided by the Obama administration as well as the Biden administration through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Just four months ago, Houston received $45 million from HUD to continue and expand on the project.

Once I looked further into the federal funding that Houston received, I wondered what other areas got that amount of HUD funding. According to the Detroit News, Michigan received $73 million from HUD in 2020. So, I kept thinking, why haven’t we seen the same drastic improvement that we saw in Houston? Personally, I believe it is because of the strong governmental push that Houston has as well as the collaboration between large corporations, housing centric non profits, and those in power. All of these powers being connected gives the city a real leg up when it comes to enacting large scale change. I would love to see similar ideas put into action in Detroit since there are so many non profits that focus on housing and the care of homeless Detroiters and there are also large corporations who talk about investing in the city. The biggest part though is governmental representation. Having someone that can fight for funding and make a case for those who are typically underrepresented is a huge deal and can make an astronomical impact on social issues. Learning about cases like Houston and thinking about how it could apply to Detroit remind me why I am studying Political Science. My hope is to one day be like Mayor Turner, of Houston who has made it a priority to house the people of the city and to listen to their needs.

Another idea that caught my idea from my research this week is the idea of a “housing first” initiative. This is something that my org, the NSO has implemented as well as many other cities and organizations. In my opinion, it is the only productive and inclusive way to provide housing. The idea is that, we take in anyone who is in need of housing (and that we have room for in our facilities) with no requirements. Some homeless shelters and housing providers will require sobriety, a turn to god, or someone to have a job before they are given housing. I see this as a counterintuitive to the ending of homelessness since lack of employment and lack of sobriety can be the causes of homelessness in the first place. This is essentially leaving someone out on the streets until they fix their problems themselves. However, housing first organizations give people housing then are able to tackle the issues that people are dealing with. Once they are the moved into housing, they are then assigned a social worker, therapist, physician, and whatever help they are in need of.

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