By Hannah Gingrich, Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore
Lack of affordable housing has been a hot topic in West Michigan, and we are lucky that Holland is taking notice of the strain such conditions have on the fabric of its community.
In a housing climate where 43 percent of renters spend more than 35 percent of their income on housing, other expenses like utilities or groceries can break the bank. But with numerous public meetings, a rally, and an election all focusing on this issue, there is good news: People are working hard to do what they can to help.
That’s not to say we’ve fixed the problem, but many community organizations are doing remarkable work to help those with tight housing budgets. Utility rebates, home repair programs, and assistance with finding an affordable place to live can all ease the stress.
Nevertheless, staying up-to-date on available help can be daunting. One place to find out about the latest help will be a Housing Resource Fair at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, at Herrick District Library, presented as part of the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore series.
The housing problem is significant for those caught up in it.
I recently attended the Homelessness Summit hosted by Allegan Homelessness Solutions. The event featured a frighteningly realistic poverty simulation run by Central Michigan University. In the simulation, my “family,” based on a real, local family, had one working parent, one unemployed parent, and three children. We were tasked with keeping the children well fed and in school while not losing the house – and we succeeded at none of those.
After the simulation, we discussed our biggest takeaways about the struggles to stay afloat.
Our facilitator pointed out how most participants missed several opportunities for help, simply because we focused only on what we already knew. Several participants playing community volunteers said their “organization” had been visited by only a handful of people.
Positively, participants discussed how much we had helped each other. People passed along news of “utility rebates at the table in the corner” just like we, as community workers, hope our fellow citizens would share such information among themselves.
Some of us were so focused on getting to work and paying the bills on time that we didn’t have time to research who could help fix that broken furnace, where to find a better rental situation, or to even know what was going on with the kids at home. Those hot tips from our neighbors made all the difference.
What I describe was a mere simulation that took place over a few hours in a warm auditorium.
Unfortunately, it is a stark reality for more people than we might care to admit.
If you or someone you know might benefit from housing assistance, or if you have questions about how to help those in difficulty, check out the resource fair.
Hannah Gingrich is an assistant at Herrick District Library and serves on the planning team for Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore.
If You Go: “Housing Resource Fair”
What: Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore series, free admission
Who: Anyone with questions about housing resources
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 26
Where: Herrick District Library, 300 S. River, Holland
This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community Knowledge: The collective knowledge and energy of the community is an incredible resource that must be channeled to where it is needed.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.