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Housing Presentation & Asks, and Officials’ Responses

I’m Tobi Hanna-Davies, Housing Task Force member since it began  – At the very first ISAAC Public Meeting in the fall of 2003, the brand new ISAAC Housing Task Force quoted the scripture of Ezekiel about the dry bones coming to life, the next day our photo was at the top of the front page of the Gazette! 



We had asked the County Commission to give life to the dry bones of the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission, which had no power then to seek funding or own housing. The County Commission leaders from both parties pledged to study the issue–with an ISAAC leader participating. The next spring the County voted unanimously to give the Public Housing Commission those powers!  Since then, look what it has meant that those dry bones have been given life!  The “Vote Yes for Kids” millage and the new “Homes for All” millage could not have happened if our Public Housing Commission was just dry bones.  But there are still [holding up the bone from 2003!] some dry bones that need new life!  

Here are some of the Housing Task Force members to explain.



I’m Andrew Chaponda, from Open Doors Kalamazoo  – The first “dry bones” that need new life are: Expanding the City of Kalamazoo Housing Equity Ordinance to surrounding municipalities, and enforcing it, fully, in the City of Kalamazoo.



I’m Pat Vinge, Deacon at St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church – In 2018, at the ISAAC public meeting, the following ask was made to elected officials and to those running: Do you commit to supporting a Fair Housing amendment that prevents “source of income” discrimination and to supporting a Fair Chance Law that prevents blanket rejection of renters’ applications without consideration of their individual situations? At the same meeting, information was presented about the barriers and discrimination that were keeping community members from securing housing.


I’m Carolyn Pesheck, landlord and resident of Portage – Barriers such as how people pay their rent, or source of income, evictions or eviction filings, and criminal background were among the discrimination happening. One of the most powerful realities that was highlighted during that meeting, which still exists today, is that even if we build 10,000 new homes, if these barriers are not removed, everyone will not have access to housing.


I’m Cathy Phason, community organizer  – On September 8, 2020 the City of Kalamazoo unanimously passed the Housing Equity Ordinance. Now, thanks to the Housing Equity Ordinance, people applying for housing in the City can no longer be automatically rejected if their source of income is a housing voucher, or help from a religious congregation, or if they have an eviction or conviction on their record.  Now they will get a fair chance for housing, with consideration for their individual circumstances. Blanket policies automatically rejecting them are illegal, and predatory application fees are illegal.  A Civil Rights Board was created to review alleged violations, educate the community, and enforce the ordinance.

I’m Ian Vincent, from Integrated Services of Kalamazoo – The Housing Equity Ordinance is transformational because this community has such a long history of redlining, racially restrictive covenants, and other forms of discrimination that, although Kalamazoo County is only 11 percent Black, 60 percent of the county’s homeless population is Black–and over half are single women with school-aged children!


This is Rick Freiman, member of the Portage Planning Commission – We understand that all residents of Kalamazoo County deserve equitable access to housing.  At the ISAAC Public Meeting in 2020, after we celebrated the new Housing Equity Ordinance adopted in the City of Kalamazoo, we asked leaders from surrounding municipalities to join the City by adopting a Housing Equity Ordinance in their parts of Kalamazoo County. Leaders from Kalamazoo Township, Comstock and Portage all pledged that night to work to get a Housing Equity Ordinance adopted in their own municipality!  And leaders from Texas and Oshtemo have joined them since. With the new millage providing housing opportunities around the county, it is crucial that a Housing Equity Ordinance be adopted. Goal 3 of the recently completed Kalamazoo County Housing Plan lists expanding fair housing protections throughout the county as a priority. We would like them to answer this question:

1st ASK: 

I’m Patrese Griffin, former Vice Mayor of Kalamazoo – Leaders of municipalities surrounding the City of Kalamazoo, please raise your hand and unmute your mic if you can answer YES to this question:



Since your commitment, or since you joined our discussions, have you made progress toward adopting a Housing Equity Ordinance for your municipality, and do you pledge to continue? Please elaborate on your progress.

Portage City Council Member Vic Ledbetter, Comstock Township Trustee Jason Knight


I’m Frances Vicioso, Co-Director of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation – Thank you to these municipal leaders!   In the City of Kalamazoo, however, there has been very little enforcement of the Housing Equity Ordinance.  The Civil Rights Board, created to enforce the ordinance, has not been given adequate information about complaints covered by the ordinance and has not had the power to enforce the ordinance requirements.  So we have these questions for the Kalamazoo Mayor and Commissioners:


2nd ASK: 

This is Patrese Griffin– Mayor and City Commissioners, please raise your hand and unmute your mic if you can answer YES to these three questions:



Will you hold the City Manager accountable for enforcing the Housing Equity Ordinance that was unanimously adopted in September 2020?  And as you search for a new City Attorney, will you commit to hiring an attorney who fully supports the Housing Equity Ordinance? And if you revise the text of the ordinance will you make sure to strengthen it, not water it down? 

City Commissioners who committed during the Public Meeting: Stephanie Hoffman and Vice Mayor Don Cooney


This is Andrew Chaponda – There are also other “dry bones” that need new life. We need your help… supporting creative interim solutions while the new Countywide Housing Millage works its way to meet the severe need for permanent affordable housing.




I’m Ellen Nelson, from the Vine Neighborhood Association Board – At the ISAAC Public Meeting two years ago, we also asked all the candidates, and the entire audience, to actively support the ”Homes for All” countywide millage that was on the ballot just two weeks later in November 2020. That night 15 County and State candidates stepped up to pledge their support, and two weeks later the “Homes for All” millage PASSED! This is huge news for our County, the first county in the state to pass a housing millage!



This is Pat Vinge –This is the first year of the new 8-year “Homes for All” millage, and it has provided over $7 million for affordable housing projects in our county!  Thanks to the County Commissioners and Housing Director, there’s a wonderful array of new single-family home construction, multi-family construction, single-family renovation, and other creative projects, all in process right now, plus supportive services so residents will succeed in keeping their new homes.


This is Frances Vicioso – Unfortunately it’s going to take a long time to build enough new units to catch up with the severe need we have for low-cost housing.  The City of Kalamazoo recognized this when it passed an Emergency Housing Ordinance last December, when many people were sleeping outside. And now we are facing another winter!  Until we can meet the need for permanent affordable housing, we need to support well-planned temporary housing.



This is Rick Freiman – What would well-planned temporary housing be like?  One example that’s almost ready is the community of PODs planned by HRI (Housing Resources Inc.) Here’s a short video showing the PODs.

In HRI’s words: “The POD community will have ‘neighborhoods’ of PODs plus indoor common space for showers, bathrooms, meals, support staff, and social activities.” “The POD community is not an encampment.” “It is a managed community with round-the-clock supportive staff and round the clock security.” “It will be gated for everyone’s security and comfort.” When the location is set, community support will be essential.


3rd ASK: This is Stephanie Hoffman, City Commissioner and former Executive Director of Open Doors Kalamazoo – Housing is a human right. It’s not a choice. It’s the foundation of everyone’s success. We need the support of everyone here–candidates for office, clergy, community leaders of all kinds, and everyone watching. Candidates for office at every level, clergy, community leaders of every kind, and everyone watching:    


Will you support well-planned temporary housing solutions, designed to give dignity, privacy and safety to people who need a place to live, and to the neighborhoods nearby?  Will you welcome a community of people who are transitioning to permanent housing and a new life?

State Rep. Julie Rogers, State Rep. Christine Morse, Portage City Council Member Vic Ledbetter

Comstock Trustee Jason Knight,  County Commission candidate John Taylor, Judicial candidate Becket Jones

State Rep. candidate Justin Mendoza, County Commissioner Jen Strebs, County Commission candidate Peter Strazdas

Judge candidate Lana Maria Escamilla


This is Cathy Phason – Thank you to all these candidates!  Clergy, community leaders of every kind, and everyone watching, please write YES! In the chat or comment section if you can answer Yes to this same question:



Will you support well-planned temporary housing solutions, designed to give dignity, privacy and safety to people who need a place to live, and to the neighborhoods nearby? Will you welcome a community of people who are transitioning to permanent housing and a new life?

Yes Responses in the Chats: 

Frances Vicioso, TRHT 

Ian Vincent 

Wendy Flora, CCDOC

Elder Douglas King Grace Covenant Ministries 

Deacon Pat Vinge, St. Martin of Tours Episopal Church

Dr. Carolyn Heinmen, ARTF 

Karen Weller, Unity of Kalamazoo 

Denise Hartsough ARTF

Rev. Dr. Matt Weiler. Kalamazoo First United Methodist Church

Rev. Rachel Lonberg, People’s Church 

Ellen Nelson,Housing Task Force

Cordelia Greer, Kalamazoo Friends Meeting 

Rick Freiman

Carolyn Pesheck Portage Chapel Hill UMC

Rev. Michael Wood, St Barnabas Epsicopal Church

Josh Hilgart, Judge Candidate 

Sharon & Bruce Brenn, Lutheran Church of the Savior 

Wendy Fields, Galilee Baptist Church and MKNAACP 

John Taylor

Cathy Phason ISAAC HTF  

Bishop Daniel Cunningham, Empower Center

Coach Dick Shilts 

This is Frances Vicioso – I’m seeing so many YESes coming in, and comments and emojis! Thank you to all these candidates and everyone watching! Let’s clap, un-mute and clap for these folks! It’s important to acknowledge that people who are un-housed were sometimes just one paycheck away from being homeless. They were like you and I. Let’s use this opportunity not to judge, but to support, and do the work that ISAAC has asked us to do. Thank you from ISAAC and TRHT for doing your part to build the Beloved Community. Tobi, hold up that bone! Thank you all for seeing the dry bones around us and believing that new life is possible!