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Washtenaw United: Avalon Housing Increases Service Offerings In COVID-19 Crisis

Avalon Housing
Avalon Housing

The coronavirus crisis has proven particularly difficult for the homeless.  Some Washtenaw County hotels are being used as temporary housing sites, but it is not a part of the long-term solution.  In this week's "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair has a conversation with Aubrey Patiño, executive director of Avalon Housing in Ann Arbor, about what preparations are underway to serve the moment and the future. 

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.'


Aubrey Patiño currently is the Executive Director of Avalon Housing, a supportive housing developer and service provider located in Washtenaw County, MI.  She has worked within the housing and homelessness field extensively; overseeing systems change initiatives, direct care, behavioral health programming, outreach, case management and property management.  More recently, Aubrey led Washtenaw County’s FUSE (Frequent Users Systems Engagement) Initiative – one of four sites in the country awarded to pilot a Social Innovation Fund project through CSH, linking supportive housing with coordinated primary and behavioral health care that’s targeted at high utilizers of crisis health services.  Aubrey has a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan with a concentration on Community Organizing.  She is committed to innovative Housing First models that promote community, inclusiveness, health outcomes, and equity. 


Avalon Housing


Though the way we work may temporarily change, our commitment to the community will not.  United Way has responded to our community’s most pressing needs for nearly 100 years.  We will continue to be there to help in every way we can. 

Most importantly, the COVID-19 Community Relief Fund will help ensure that there is financial support for individuals, families and community organizations.  

Our Community Relief Fund grants are providing unrestricted operating support to local human service nonprofits and community groups meeting immediate, emergent, and unanticipated needs of people and communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Prioritizing response efforts that attend to racial inequity remains a central tenet in United Way’s grant making as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal the disproportionate impact of this virus on people and communities of color.  (See Washtenaw County COVID-19 data.

Grants made thus far have prioritized acute community needs related to: 1. direct assistance to individuals and families 2. food security and hunger relief, 3. supports to essential workers.  To learn more about the fund and investment made, click here

Avalon Housing's mission is to build healthy, safe and inclusive supportive housing communities as a long-term solution to homelessness.  All of the 780 people served by Avalon have experienced homelessness, and they need a combination of permanently affordable housing and support services to maintain housing stability. 

Avalon serves more than 250 people over age 50 who are medically complex, and 25% of their population has a chronic health condition.  The majority of those served have a disability, and struggle with behavioral health issues. 

Our partners at Avalon rely on front-line support staff to provide critical onsite, 24-hour front-desk and food delivery support to our residents, many of whom are elderly and at extremely high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to complex, chronic health conditions.  Our residential support staff risk exposure to the virus themselves given their contact with this high-risk population. Many also face personal financial hardships due to job losses within their own households.  In order to support these critical hourly staff, and attract replacement staff as needed, Avalon immediately provided hazard pay at the onset of the public health crisis. 

Supporting Avalon's front-line residential support staff will allow them to continue to provide critical services to Avalon's tenants and clients who live in Avalon properties, public housing and/or with private landlords.  The staff are serving people who have faced marginalization, generational poverty and homelessness.  

Slightly more than half of Avalon's clients are people of color. All of the households served are low-income.  In 2019, 85% of households were extremely low-income (at or below 30% of Area Median Income).  For the period ending May 2019, the average annual income of tenants was $8,706 (including zero income earners).  When zero income earners are excluded, the average annual income is $12,937.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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