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New state program aims to keep people healthy and housed

“When you have a lack of housing you are going to see residents in your community suffer.” Yarrow Brown, Housing North Executive Director

TRAVERSE CITY — Local health departments and housing advocates are welcoming a new state program that will make it easier for people to have good health and find good housing.

Launched by the state Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), The Good Housing = Good Health Program provides funding to local health departments to hire community health workers who help people find housing resources and lead healthy lives.

“When folks don’t have safe affordable housing they have to spend a lot of their time and energy just on staying warm and safe, and they’re not able to prioritize the other important things they need to do to take care of themselves,” Benzie Leelanau District Health Department Assistant Director, Debbie Aldridge explained.

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Aldrige is also the Regional Supervisor of the Community Connections Program that also focuses on people’s health while helping them find affordable housing. The Community Connections Program has been serving Northern Michigan’s 31 counties for the past seven years.

“So, when these grants came through the state, specifically focusing on housing and health, it seemed like a good fit for the work that we’re already doing,” Aldridge said.

The new state program will provide funding to programs like Community Connections which will connect people with a community health worker who will help them apply for jobs, create budgets and help apply for health insurance and food assistance through MIBridges.

The announcement of the new program comes as a welcoming sight to housing advocates. Housing North’s Executive Director Yarrow Brown said the new program will help people who are struggling keep their home.

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“I think the partnership is amazing. We need to collaborate more with our human health services and really provide that support to people so they can stay healthy and housed,” Brown stated.

While Aldridge acknowledged the program will allow them to help more people stay health and keep their homes, she said the region needs more affordable housing in order to make a real difference.

“We’ve been doing this work for a while now, but I think we will be able to reach some other people [that are] eligible for this program,” Aldrige said. “What really needs to happen is more affordable housing locally. There are folks that are working on that, but that’s going to take time.”

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