ANN ARBOR, MI — From housing stabilization to educational programs and community building, the Community Action Network offers a wide variety of supportive services to tenants of Ann Arbor affordable housing complexes.
The nonprofit agency is now carrying on its work at a new community center at the Ann Arbor Housing Commission’s Creekside Court apartments at 3425 Platt Road.
Representatives from CAN and the Housing Commission, along with other community members, gathered Friday, June 25, to celebrate the opening of the center at the new complex, which began welcoming its first tenants last November.
Many residents living at Creekside previously have been homeless or had unstable housing and CAN’s goal is to provide as many resources as possible to ensure a safe and stable housing experience for them and their families, said Frankie Moore, CAN’s director of development.
The new complex is located on the city’s southeast side near Mitchell Elementary and Scarlett Middle School, between Packard and Ellsworth roads.
The Housing Commission has partnered with CAN to operate the community center, which includes gathering space, a commercial kitchen, food pantry and computer center.
This is CAN’s seventh community center and fourth in partnership with the Housing Commission, Moore said.
Youth programs and services offered include a free six-week educational summer camp designed to prevent summer learning loss, a free after-school program with homework and reading support, enrichment activities, social-emotional development, meals and more. CAN also offers an art-and-design program to help youths hone creative skills.
To help stabilize families, the agency provides aid to prevent utility shutoffs and evictions, an emergency food pantry when the community center is open, biweekly food distributions, holiday gift support and referrals to additional resources.
Other programs include holiday and community parties/events, conflict-resolution between community members, a partnership with Ann Arbor police to promote positive relationships between police and the community, and relationship-building between school teachers, families and CAN staff.
“We’ve been rolling out programming as we move through the seasons,” said Danielle Dicks, CAN’s director of the Creekside community center.
“We just moved into the center in December, so we’ve been doing community building, food distribution, all of the case-management services that we normally provide, and then just this week we started our educational summer camp, so we’re getting that running,” she said. “And then we’ll have the after-school program in the fall.”
After that, extra programs like creating a community garden can be discussed, she said.
At Friday’s event, three Sienna minivans donated to CAN by Toyota were out front with gift bows on them, while other CAN supporters and donors mingled about.
The new complex has 32 apartments ranging in size from one to five bedrooms. Families with school-age children account for a majority of the tenants, though it’s a mix, Dicks said.
Some are pretty self-sufficient and haven’t needed a lot from the community center, and others have already had a lot of contact with the center, she said.
“We’ve been providing referrals to a lot of services,” she said. “I think everyone’s been really excited about signing their kids up for summer camp or the ability to get scholarships for other summer camps through the community center. So, overall it’s been a really positive reception and we’re still building.”
She added, “We’ve only been here for six months, so we’re definitely still in that get-to-know-you phase with everyone.”
The complex includes 12 apartments designated for people with incomes up to 50% of the area median income and 20 up to 60% of AMI, with two reserved for homeless veterans, Housing Commission Executive Director Jennifer Hall said Friday.
However, while 60% AMI is technically the highest income allowed to qualify for one of the subsidized apartments, tenants have subsidized housing vouchers that come with a 50% AMI cap, Hall said.
“But once you’re moved in, your income can actually exceed that — you just pay more rent,” she said, noting tenants pay 30% of their income on rent.
Hall talked about the history of the site, noting it used to have four five-bedroom homes on it that were public housing.
“And then we acquired a duplex next to it that was a market-rate duplex,” she said, adding that allowed for a larger redevelopment as the commission moved forward with tearing down the single-family houses.
“It’s a significant expansion for us for housing on that site, which is super exciting,” she said. “And we decided we wanted to partner with Community Action Network because they already partner with us at Hikone and Green Baxter and this is sort of their neighborhood. They do Bryant Community Center and they work with Mitchell School.”
The new community center’s design mirrors that of one the Housing Commission built at the West Arbor complex on the city’s west side four years ago and includes some of the same green/sustainability features, Hall said,
As far as the apartments, Hall noted the roof vents are all located on the north sides of buildings and the south sides are a blank canvasses, ready to welcome solar panels in the near future, which will help lower utility costs.
The buildings are not all-electric like the city’s A2Zero carbon-neutrality plan calls for and include gas appliances, but this will be the last project the commission does that way, Hall said.
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