Kalamazoo considers ordinance to facilitate emergency housing in city code

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo city commissioners were presented with a plan that could help kick the local homelessness problem to the curb.

Community and Economic Development Director Rebekah Kik introduced an emergency temporary housing ordinance that would add “emergency housing” to city code.

“This is us reaching out and all of us being able to help, do this outreach together… rather than just the city doing just one warming tent,” Kik said.

The ordinance could be utilized to add shelter housing in any zone of the city. It would require a temporary facility permit at no charge and a memorandum between the city, property owner and the service organization running the housing.

“Property owners, service providers, even the neighborhoods are in communication with each other to know what’s going on, what is being proposed, so that whatever is eventually constructed or utilized can meet the needs of those individuals that need that housing,” Deputy City Manager Jeff Chamberlain explained. “But at the same time, (it) is also safe.”

If passed, the ordinance would only go into effect through September 2022, acting as a placeholder for a permanent solution with public input along the way.

“We realize that permanent fixes take time. They take a lot of engagement,” Kik said. “They are going to be way past our weather and other issues.”

Overall, the commission welcomed the idea.

“That is very awesome to see that the city is taking that kind of an approach to get more organizations and nonprofits involved with that kind of work,” Commissioner Esteven Juarez said.

“I just applaud the creativity… the ability to think outside the box, get this moving and being thoughtful with the time frame, so that we’re not reacting,” Commissioner Chris Praedel added.

According to Kik, already-budgeted COVID-19 funds would be used to pay for temporary housing. As for the permanent solution, it would be relying on the city’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development money, which totals $2 million. Kik says there are already service providers interested.

Commissioners did not vote on the resolution Monday. They will call the roll at their next meeting on Dec. 6.

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