Washtenaw United: Reducing Eviction Leads To Less Homelessness In Washtenaw County
Receiving an eviction notice is a difficult situation. Typically, it's the first step to homelessness. In response to this, SOS Community Services and the Ann Arbor Housing Commission created the SOS Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Eviction Prevention Program, which helps maintain housing for those at risk of eviction. SOS's executive director, Rhonda Weathers, and its housing support coordinator, Zhe-Ahnte Johnson, explain their program in a conversation with WEMU's David Fair for this week's "Washtenaw United."
WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
ABOUT THE GUESTS
Rhonda Weathers has served as the Executive Director of SOS Community Services since January of 2013. She oversees programs that prevent and end homelessness for more than 5,000 people in Washtenaw County each year. During her tenure, she has implemented a number of exciting initiatives, including the reintroduction and expansion of SOS’s Parents as Teachers program, which promotes learning and development for at-risk children. She recently designed an innovative new program to prevent eviction and homelessness for local Housing Choice Voucher tenants. Rhonda serves on the Boards of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, the Washtenaw County Continuum of Care, and the Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth. She is a member of the Washtenaw County Community Action Board, the Ypsilanti Rotary Club, and Washtenaw County Success by Six/Great Start Collaborative. In previous positions, she has overseen the provision of domestic violence and sexual assault services as the Executive Director of Oasis Family Resource Center in Cadillac, Michigan. She also has worked as a therapist and counselor for victims of child abuse and neglect. She earned a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Michigan University.
After earning a Master’s Degree in criminology from Eastern Michigan University in 2016, Zhe-Ahnte Johnson has devoted her career to assisting people who are experiencing homelessness and barriers to stable housing including low-income and disability. In her role as eviction prevention coordinator at SOS Community Services, Zhe has been preventing eviction, voucher loss, and homelessness for 90 Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher tenants annually. Her work prevents homelessness by helping people preserve their vouchers which provide them with permanent, affordable housing. In previous roles with Michigan Ability Partners, Salvation Army, and the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, Zhe has worked with homeless individuals and families including performing intakes, providing case management, assisting with lease up, and helping them maintain housing. Zhe is a strong advocate for people experiencing homelessness. The care and concern Zhe shows for the people she helps provides them with needed encouragement during difficult times. Zhe also is a certified horticulturist who focuses on growing plants and vegetables.
United Way of Washtenaw County support SOS Community Services in a variety of ways. A recent investment in helping the agency launch a WorkStart program is one way we help build the financial stability of families in Washtenaw County.
United Way’s ALICE Report shows that 39% of Washtenaw County folks do not make enough money to meet their basic needs, despite being employed. One of our priorities is increasing the financial stability of families.
In alignment with this goal, SOS launched the Work Start program for women experiencing homelessness who have children and are asset-limited, income-constrained, and employed. Work Start provides job training and skill building opportunities to help women increase net income and access benefits.
Through a supported employment model, women with barriers to employment are supported in gaining a foothold in the job market, and overcoming many of the common barriers to employment, including childcare and transportation.
The job developer helps women get and keep jobs, develop work history, and develop employment skills, so they can get permanent jobs at program end. Women learn soft skills and increase income through work. Increased income leads to more stable housing. The job developer also helps women access resources for child care and transportation.
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