17 May AiroAV Declares: Groups offer aid to Ypsilanti housing complexes as need for
SUPERIOR CHARTER TOWNSHIP AND YPSILANTI, MI – Residents of Ypsilanti’s public housing and low-income apartment complexes have been receiving resources from a number organizations during coronavirus outbreak, but some advocates say need continues to grow amid widespread unemployment and limited access to food and hygiene products.
There have been multiple efforts to distribute supplies and provide services at Chidester Place, Sycamore Meadows and Ypsilanti Housing Commission communities.
But Chidester Place, 330 Chidester St. in Ypsilanti, could use some additional help, said Pam Miller, a former resident council president who advocates for those who live there. The complex caters to seniors and people with disabilities, Miller said.
“It is a truly needy population,” said Miller. “What is really needed is a social worker, but the matter is getting someone to fund it. They need someone to check on people.”
Marti Bombyk, who is a tenant organizer for Sycamore Meadows and Chidester Place, said residents are used to congregating in community rooms, but with pandemic concerns, many tenants are isolated and struggling with their mental health.
“They’re really at a disadvantage if they’re low-income or have a physical or mental disability,” said Bombyk.
Many tenants are also facing food insecurity and lack of finances, Bombyk said.
Food Gatherers has been helping with regular meal distribution.
“It is our mission to fight hunger where we live and unfortunately, there’s a lot of hunger that we have to fight these days,” said said Eileen Spring, president and CEO of Food Gatherers. “Our community is like everyone else’s in the country right now, experiencing dramatic increase in unemployment and tremendous uncertainty.”
The group saw its largest distribution levels in 31 years last month, up 30 percent from last April, said Spring.
To find Food Gatherers distribution centers, Spring suggests visiting the Need Food list on their website.
Residents of Sycamore Meadows, 1273 Stamford Ct. in Superior Charter Township, are relying on Food Gatherers, Washtenaw County, Christian Love Fellowship Ministries International and the apartment complex itself to distribute and provide food and supplies.
The MacArthur Boulevard neighborhood, where Sycamore Meadows is located, is one of the Washtenaw County Health Department’s areas of community engagement. The health department identified the neighborhood in 2017 as an area where “unjust health disparities exist and where more community engagement was needed.”
Advocates say Sycamore Meadows residents lack easy access to food and transportation. The nearest grocery store, a Save-a-Lot, appears to have shut down, said pastor Harold Wimberly of Christian Love Fellowship Ministries International. To assist, Food Gatherers is regular serving a week’s worth of food to over 200 families there.
On May 23, the church and Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper will host a public food and supplies distribution from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the former Cheney Academy at 1500 Stamford Road in Ypsilanti.
“It’s open to anyone,” Wimberly said. “There’s not a lot of places that do a lot of things for our residents in the area, so we make sure that we’re able to support. There’s people who are waiting to be taught, loved on and to understand three words: You are valuable.”
To support the distribution, Wimberly suggests writing the church a check or sending a donation via Cash App or Venmo.
The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s office is has also been delivering food and supplies to public housing and low-income residential areas in the county. Overall, deputies have delivered supplies to over 28 organizations, with plans to expand those efforts, the sheriff’s office said. They have been at Sycamore Meadows weekly.
“We really view law enforcement and our role as more than just solving crimes and locking people up,” said sheriff’s spokesman Derrick Jackson. “It’s really about community relationships, engaging with our residents and building that trust – and just being a good neighbor.”
The Family Empowerment Program, managed by Eastern Michigan University, distributes supplies and food to all Ypsilanti Housing Commission communities. That includes the Parkridge Park area with Hamilton Crossing, New Parkridge and Saulk Trails.
The program delivers to about 1000 families and has expanded aid after receiving donations, said Marquan Jackson, Family Empowerment Program director. The program has also sought to expand access to mobility.
“We are currently providing transportation to food banks, grocery stores, medical appointments and financial institutions to residents at no cost,” said Jackson.
Ypsilanti Housing Commission units have a social worker and a food pantry on site. Cellphones have been provided to social workers so that someone is always on call, officials said. Laptops have been distributed to residents and Wi-Fi has been installed.
In addition, Ypsilanti Community Schools has a distribution food site at the Parkridge Community Center on Thursdays, located at 591 Armstrong Drive Meals are free for all children.
Spring said there are high rates of food insecurity in the Parkridge area, so Food Gatherers is partnering with YCS to provide emergency food boxes in addition to the school district’s meals.
Residents have also received cleaning supplies and face masks.