KALAMAZOO COUNTY — At least 1,300 kids in Kalamazoo County have no place to call home during the school year. The Public Housing Commission said that number might even be a little higher. The statistic is so staggering that county commissioners launched a new program that will hopefully get rid of that number.
“We’re very excited that they’ll be doing some good work with this new initiative basically to make sure the homeless kids will have a safe home to keep them off the streets and to provide them a better quality of life,” said Kalamazoo County Vice Chair Jeff Heppler.
He said Kalamazoo city and county have been working together for years to reduce homelessness. They provided vouchers for people to get in the system and find a permanent home. However the new initiative, headed by commissioners David Anderson and David Artley, focuses on the children and ensuring they have one place to come home to after class.
“We want to make sure that kids get a good education, get a good job and became good members of society,” said Heppler. “When you have lack of education, lack of home, it breeds a problem for the community. And the community needs to be strong.”
Anderson said in a phone interview that last fall voters approved a millage to fund the program and rapidly re-house students who had no home. Last week, commissioners approved both the housing contracts with the commission and their plan going forward. Heppler said the county got a good look at the program a few weeks ago and ultimately liked what they saw.
“I’d like to see people get jobs, be sustainable and not homeless,” said Heppler, a commissioner for 14 years. “Obviously we want to make sure that kids get a good education, get a good job and became good members of society.”
Heppler said county members will meet May 3 to discuss possibly implementing the program. He emphasized that the goal is to give kids stability to break the cycle of homelessness and help parents become self-sustaining adults.
“We need people to have a program so they don’t expect the government is going take care of them forever,” said Heppler matter-of-factly. “They need to be able to take care of themselves and like I said get a job and provide for their needs. Their food, their shelter and not expect some government to take care of it for them forever.”