New Tax: Kalamazoo’s Commitment to Helping the Homeless

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Many people don’t think much of leaving school and going back home; it’s just a part of everyday routine, right? The sad truth is that for over a thousand students in the Kalamazoo Public School District there is no “going back home” in their schedule, and Kalamazoo County has finally taken a huge step in resolving this housing dilemma.

On November 3rd, the “Kalamazoo County Local Housing Assistance Fund Millage” was passed. This tax will raise around $800,000 annually for 6 years and go towards aiding homeless families with school-age children.

For this tax, a person with property worth $117,000 (the average property value in Kalamazoo) would only pay around $5.85 more in taxes each year. This money will help 100 families each year with payments like rent subsidies and other housing assistance.

Many question the necessity of a tax like this, arguing it’s just more money citizens have to spend. In the voting it was a close call and no polls were done to gauge the support this tax would receive, so the results on November 3rd were surprising to many.

“This is an unusual request. I don’t think there is exactly a similar request any place in the country. I think this is something that could be recognized as a model to other places” said David Anderson, a board member of the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission and a prominent supporter of the tax.

During the 2013-2014 school year, there were a total of 1,586 homeless students in Kalamazoo Public Schools (this includes children in foster care, staying in motels/shelters, and staying in homes without utilities). The passing of this tax shows the morality present in Kalamazoo’s citizens and the willingness to rise to the challenge for the greater good. A simple tax equivalent to the price of a meal at McDonald’s will go towards helping the less fortunate in our own community. Even in our own school district, data shows there were over 1,500 homeless students just last year. These could be people you say hi to in the hall or borrow pens from in class that are now getting the support that they need.

“It was stressful. I would be stressed at school, and I couldn’t go somewhere to escape that stress. It was just as bad, if not worse, at home.” said an anonymous student at Loy Norrix when asked how they felt balancing school and housing struggles. “After our house got foreclosed, things didn’t start improving until my dad got his financial situation solved.”

We’re surrounded by people going through different challenges. That’s important to understand when considering the usefulness of this tax. While many complain of the additional tax, with 44% voting against it, it’s a simple taxation that will give children a chance to truly focus on their education and will relieve students and families with housing problems of some of that stress. Children should be thinking about when they can get their homework done, not wondering how they’re going to find a place to sleep.

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