The first road trip of the United for Homes campaign took place last week in the state of Michigan. Joseph Lindstrom and I visited eight communities in three days meeting with advocates and providers of low income housing, services to people who are homeless, and services for people with disabilities. We visited a CDC in Flint, a public housing agency in Reed City, a service center for people with disabilities in Kalamazoo, a statewide meeting of homeless service providers in Ann Arbor, and more.

We learned that the voucher administrator in Traverse City may have to give up the program because there are not enough funds to keep running it. We were told about families living in deer blinds in rural areas. We heard people with disabilities express their fear that they will lose their homes because of the federal government shutdown. We talked to homeless service providers who have laid off many members of staff because of the sequester. Everywhere we went, the common theme was the housing shortage for people who are poor and a feeling of desperation that it would only get worse.

Sheila speaking in Kalamazoo

NLIHC received high praise for our research and the voluminous data we make available to advocates to use to make the case for more rental housing that is affordable to the lowest income families in their communities. But I heard something more about what these data mean to people who are struggling to help poor and homeless people find affordable homes. The data help them to understand why their jobs are so hard and to “maintain sanity” in the face of overwhelming need. The data explain what is really going on.

We spend a lot of time in our local meetings going over the details of the United for Homes proposal to fund the National Housing Trust Fund with revenue raised by modifying the mortgage interest deduction. We got a lot of good, thoughtful questions that indicated that how engaged people were. We were able to show how few people in Michigan borrow over $500,000 to buy homes (0.5% of all mortgages between 2009 and 2011) and how much money would come to Michigan to solve the housing problems of the poor if our proposal became law. Having something to work towards, instead of just defending the status quo, offers advocates hope.

Many thanks to our hosts across the state for the warm welcome and encouragement. We are honored to partner with you to advance the United for Homes campaign for as long as takes.