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Too poor for a homeless shelter? Only in Michigan

In Michigan, some families may be too poor to stay at a homeless shelter.

That’s the sad reality facing some Michigan families who will be facing the double-whammy of being cut off from cash assistance Oct. 1, and being kicked out of homeless shelters because they then have no source of income – a requirement in some shelters meant as temporary housing for those trying to get back on their feet.

A single mother with three children is currently staying at Haven House in East Lansing. Because the woman has received cash assistance for more than 48 months in her lifetime, her assistance will be cut off Oct. 1, as part of a new lifetime limit on welfare imposed by the state.

Haven House only allows families to stay at the homeless shelter for 30 days if the family has no income. The woman’s only income was the cash assistance she was receiving from the Department of Human Services.

In effect, the woman will be too poor to stay at the shelter come Nov. 1, said Haven House Executive Director Angie Mayeaux .
“I can give them 30 days (with no income), but I can’t extend it any longer, because there’s no chance they’ll be moving into (their own) housing,” Mayeaux said. “They’ll have to move.”

If the family has no male children over the age of 12, there is another shelter in Ingham County to which they can move; if they have a male child over 12, they’re out of luck.

“Some families find friends and family they can stay with, but that doesn’t last long,” Mayeaux said.

At Haven House, over half of residents typically have no income other than welfare cash assistance, Mayeaux said. As more and more are kicked off the dole for reaching the 48-month limit, Mayeaux envisions a housing crisis.

“We’re very nervous as to what is going to happen,” she said. “We've already doubled the number of people coming here with no income from last year (even before the 48-month limit goes into effect). There is no safety net. There’s not just a big crack, there’s a giant gaping hole that is sucking people in.”

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