2017-12-10 / Insight

Lapeer Housing office issues vouchers to assist people with needs

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


Operating out of a first-floor office in Riverview Towers on 544 N. Saginaw St. in Lapeer, the members of the Lapeer Housing Commission and Housing Improvement Dept. work closely to prevent or alleviate homelessness in Lapeer County. Pictured from left are LHC Housing Manager Janelle Jackson, Grant Administrator Shelley Lincoln, Housing Compliance Casey Gavan, Housing Choice Voucher Processor Jodi Mauk, Director of Housing and Neighborhood Development Denise Soldenski and Housing Choice Voucher Specialist Shannon Smith. Not pictured are Craig Lamoreax, maintenance, and Sarah Taylor, inspector. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese Operating out of a first-floor office in Riverview Towers on 544 N. Saginaw St. in Lapeer, the members of the Lapeer Housing Commission and Housing Improvement Dept. work closely to prevent or alleviate homelessness in Lapeer County. Pictured from left are LHC Housing Manager Janelle Jackson, Grant Administrator Shelley Lincoln, Housing Compliance Casey Gavan, Housing Choice Voucher Processor Jodi Mauk, Director of Housing and Neighborhood Development Denise Soldenski and Housing Choice Voucher Specialist Shannon Smith. Not pictured are Craig Lamoreax, maintenance, and Sarah Taylor, inspector. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese LAPEER — The issue of homelessness is often thought of as a “city problem,” but homelessness is an issue not reserved for urban areas. There are several services and organizations aimed to assist the homeless in Lapeer County and the City of Lapeer, offering help with food, employment or rehousing, but for the Housing Improvement Department of the City of Lapeer, the best way to fight homelessness is to keep people in their homes and stop the issue before it starts.

“Our role is a little bit different, we do a lot on the housing side of things,” said Director of Housing and Neighborhood Development Denise Soldenski. She and the Lapeer Housing Commission (LHC) operate out of a suite of offices on the first floor of Riverview Towers, a low-income senior housing facility on 544 N. Saginaw St. in Lapeer.

The LHC’s primary means of assistance are programs through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, or MSHDA. Soldenski and her staff utilize MSHDA’s Housing Choice Vouchers rental assistance program to assist people in need in Lapeer and Tuscola counties.

“Our goal is to integrate people, we don’t want to have that negative connotation of ‘low-income’ housing,” said Soldenski. “People aren’t required to live in ‘low-income’ housing, they can live anywhere that makes sense for them.”

These vouchers, said Soldenski, can bring people out of homelessness and allow them to continue with their lives. The LHC operates a waiting list, and as one person no longer receives the voucher, the next on the list begins the program. Soldenski and the LHC work closely with the Bluewater Center for Independent Living, located at 392 W. Nepessing St. in downtown Lapeer, to compile the wait lists and locate people in need.

“The Bluewater Center for Independent Living is sort of a one-stop shop for people in need, anyone homeless in the county can go to them and see if they qualify for the wait list,” said Soldenski. “Once they’re eligible, we go through an orientation and give them a voucher to look for housing, and you’re free to use that voucher for whatever makes sense, within limits.”

People receiving vouchers have that assistance for as long as they need it, said Soldenski. “All they have to do is follow the program rules,” she said. “Success (in the program) would be buying their own home or earning enough money that they no longer qualify.” Soldenski stressed that the most important thing for people currently on the wait list to remember is to always make sure their contact information is up to date. Due to the transient nature of homelessness, occasion- ally Soldenski and the LHC run into roadblocks when trying to contact a person.

LHC currently has funding to administer 122 vouchers within the limits of the City of Lapeer, and 96 people are currently using vouchers. “We do have open vouchers and we’re pulling from the wait list,” said Soldenski.

The aim of the program, said Soldenski, is not only to find people housing, but to keep them housed. “Once we’ve got people housed, for us obviously that’s a success, but for those who need it, the goal is to keep people housed for as long as they need it,” she said. “We’re a little bit more on the administrative side, but we work closely with landlords, CMH, non-profit agencies like Love INC.” Soldenski also works with area landlords and with CMH to ensure that the clients housed with vouchers are able to be good neighbors. “We want people to be independent and have that stable and secure housing,” she said.

Currently, 380 people have vouchers in Lapeer County, but Soldenski said they’re always pulling from the wait list as others move on. “There are success stories, and everyone hears the bad side, but you feel good at the end of the day knowing you helped someone in need,” she said. “We definitely have homeless, but we have great programs and resources. There is help out there and I think we can solve a big chunk of it.”

To contact the Blue Water Center for Independent Living, call 810-664-9098. To contact the Lapeer Housing Commission, call 810- 245-4215.

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