1) How long has Alpha House existed?
The Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) was founded in 1992 and operated as a rotating shelter for families until 2001, when St. Joseph Mercy Hospital donated the use of Alpha House as a permanent shelter for $1/year. On March 11, 2012 we celebrated our 20th anniversary of serving children and parents experiencing homelessness in our community.

2) How do families come to us? Who are the families?
Families are referred to Alpha House from Housing Access of Washtenaw County. In the fall of 2011, our county implemented a single point of entry so people seeking shelter only need to make one phone call. Housing Access conducts a brief assessment and refers to the appropriate agencies for services, if available. Families who come to Alpha House often have a single parent, several children, utility and other debt, multiple evictions, no job and a poor employment history.  They require significant assistance to ensure their success upon leaving Alpha House to prevent future episodes of homelessness.

3) How long can families stay at Alpha House?
The maximum stay is 90 days due to funding restrictions. Government funders recommend a Housing First model, which encourages diversion from shelter and shortened stays. IHN staff assists each family with identifying goals to move toward housing stability. Each goal is set for the first 30 days and if the family is making adequate progress toward these goals their stay is extended for another 30 days. This can happen two times for a maximum of 90 days of shelter. Currently, the average length of stay for a family at Alpha House is 54 days.

4) How many families can we shelter?
We shelter between 40 and 50 families per year. Alpha House has the capacity to shelter six families at one time. In 2014, we sheltered 49 adults and 79 children.

5) What do we do for families that stay here?
Our services guide families through a plan to secure and maintain stable housing. This includes:
-Safe and secure emergency shelter with three meals daily
-Help finding employment, increasing income, budgeting and saving
-Support in identifying and securing affordable housing
-Structured play and support for children
-Parenting skills and support
-Connections to essential services such as childcare, school and health care

6) How do kids get to school?
Federal legislation (McKinney Vento Act) guarantees transportation to their “home” school for children who are experiencing homelessness. Alpha House staff work closely with the Education Project of Washtenaw Intermediate School District to arrange transportation to and from school for our children. If families choose to leave their “home” school when they come to Alpha House, their children ride the school bus to the local school. When families leave Alpha House, their children are eligible to receive transport to continue attending the same school until the end of the school year.

7) Do we provide day care?
No, we do not provide day care. Our Children’s Services Specialist works closely with parents to access affordable day care options in the community and apply for day care subsidies. Child Care Network also provides support for our families

8) Do families always leave with housing? What happens to those who leave without housing?
No, families do not always leave Alpha House with housing. Families who leave without housing still have the option of continuing to work with our Home-Based Support Program to achieve the goals they identified while staying at Alpha House. These goals include budgeting, increasing or maintaining income, paying down debt, and securing permanent housing.

9) Do most families have transportation?
Few families at Alpha House have reliable transportation. Many rely on friends, relatives, or co-workers to get to work. Others rely on public transportation, which is very limited in parts of Washtenaw County. It can also be incredibly challenging for single parents and large families to get multiple small children on a bus, get them to day care, and then get to work, only to do the same thing at the end of the day. We gratefully accept donations of used cars in good working condition which we pass along to families.

10) Can we volunteer at other times besides when our congregation is here?
Yes! You can be added to our list of back-up volunteers who agree to be contacted when we are in need of help cooking and serving dinner, Activity Time, or as an overnight volunteer.  Volunteers over the age of 18 should also ask about how to be an Alpha Volunteer. parent/teen pair who comes in for regular service at dinner and Activity Time. We also support groups/individuals who would like to organize a work day or donation drive; parent/teen volunteer pairs; cleaning and organizing areas of the shelter; yard work and much more!

To discuss your interests in volunteering with IHN at Alpha House more specifically, please contact Kathy Koehler, Volunteer Coordinator, by phone (734.249.5014) or by email (kkoehler@alphahouse-ihn.org).

11) How is IHN at Alpha House funded?
IHN at Alpha House has a wide base of financial support.  In addition to numerous in-kind donations, we are supported by donations from individuals and businesses; family and corporate foundations; congregations; civic organizations and government grants.  Currently we are funded almost equally by government sources and private donations. IHN at Alpha House has experienced ongoing reductions in all levels of government funding.  Now more than ever local families and children experiencing homelessness desperately need IHN’s support services to find and maintain secure housing – a basic need.

If you are interested in learning more about how your donation or your business’s donation to IHN at Alpha House could make a real difference in a child’s life please contact Shana Weemhoff, Development Director, by phone (734.249.5002) or by email (sweemhoff@alphahouse-ihn.org).