Detroit men's shelter calls for more funding during meeting with Ben Carson

Nicquel Terry Ellis
The Detroit News

Detroit — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson visited a shelter and substance abuse treatment center for homeless men Thursday that says it has lost some $400,000 in federal funding in the last four years. 

Directors at Mariners Inn, which is located in Midtown, told Carson during their meeting that the facility could benefit from more HUD funding for its support services.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson looks at the 12-step recovery wall painted by clients with Carina Jackson of Mariners Inn, a shelter and treatment center for the homeless, in Detroit on Thursday.

Those services include counseling, employment leads, legal assistance and spiritual retreats. 

Mariners Inn currently receives $268,000 annually in HUD funding, said Carina Jackson, chief operations officer. HUD, Jackson said, stopped funding support services in recent years and only funds housing. 

"We have to be able to provide services for people," Jackson told Carson. "We can't just put them in a house. Many of them don't have furniture; they don't have support. And it leads them back into the life that brought them here in the first place."

Carson agreed that support services were key but said government funding is limited. He noted HUD encourages public-private partnerships. 

"The issue with support services from what I've seen traveling around the country is there is a lot more money in the private sector than there is in the government," Carson said. "To give some perspective here, if we continue to accumulate debt at the rate that we are right now, by the year 2048 ... every penny the government takes will be spent on servicing the debt, and there won't be any money for any programs." 

Carson said HUD now operating with a Housing First model, which offers permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety. 

"It costs less money to house someone than to leave them on the street," Carson said.   

Mariners Inn currently serves 155 adult men between its residential treatment and housing programs. The treatment program lasts 45-90 days, and the men typically live in the housing units for six months up to one year, Jackson said. 

After that, Mariners Inn works with area organizations to find permanent housing for participants. 

Since HUD cut its funding, Mariners Inn has had to seek money from other sources, such as donors, churches and businesses to continues its services, Jackson said.  

She said she hopes after the meeting with Carson that HUD will reconsider its funding amounts for the facility. 

"The more funding we are able to get, the more people we can serve," Jackson said. 

Carl Bentley, a trustee for the Mariners Inn and executive vice president at Strategic Staffing Solutions, said the corporate community has embraced Mariners and hired men who went through the program. 

"It's those that have the opportunity to support those that have made poor choices that want to look at making different choices, I think we owe that back as a community," Bentley said. "And we should continually find ways to give back." 

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