On Tuesday evening, a group of about 10 University of Michigan students gathered at the Lord of Light Lutheran Campus Ministry to discuss the Ann Arbor affordable housing crisis and the possibility of the church renovating more of its space to provide affordable student housing. Currently, the church building provides affordable housing to three students.
Michigan Movement, a student-run nonprofit focused on helping underprivileged individuals and families in the local community, hosted the event. The event was held in a discussion-style forum where everyone had the ability to participate. The conversation included topics such as the cost of laundry and the importance of having a kitchen available.
Michigan Movement member Lindsay Calka, an LSA sophomore, helped plan the discussion. After the event, she expressed her appreciation for how in depth the talk went.
“When creating it, I thought any feedback would be good,” Calka said. “The only thing that I was worried about was the fact that the rhetoric on these types of issues tend to be a little repetitive, so I’m glad that we were able to get down to the details of what is provided and what isn’t.”
Speaking on a larger scale, Calka also reflected on what it took for the Lord of Light Lutheran Campus Ministry to offer student affordable housing in the first place and what its next steps are.
“A lot of things have really come together, especially over this past year,” Calka said. “It was originally supposed to be an overnight center, but when we linked up with the pastor, we realized there was an entire network that we could connect with. Moving forward, the initial next steps are getting connected to potential donors and getting the ‘okay’ from city council. Next would be getting the resources that we would need. Then, it’s going to be brainstorming, drafting and getting a blueprint in the works.”
LSA freshman Rose Nnangobya, one of the three students currently living at the church, expressed gratitude for the resources the church has provided. Nnangobya explained she is currently an independent student who has no parental financial support and expressed the lower rent charged by the church helps her a lot.
“A lot of my friends talk about how housing sucks, but having an organization that might be able to do something about it is just huge to me,” Nnangobya said. “I’m an independent student and this place makes it possible for me to be here.”
Speaking on the content of the discussion itself, Nnangobya also expressed appreciation for how wide-ranging it was.
“I liked how interactive the discussion was,” Nnangobya said. “There was a lot of input, a lot of ideas. The fact that we decided not to restrict ourselves to money, that we just said whatever was our dream idea was, very nice and very helpful.”
Also present at the meeting was LSA sophomore Annika Dhawan, who also expressed appreciation for the conversation and its content.
“I thought it was a really nice meeting, and it was just really nice to have a conversation about what’s happening,” Dhawan said. “A lot of our conversations surround people who are struggling with homelessness, and it was just really nice to be able to connect that with students who might be struggling with homelessness or financial insecurity.”
Speaking about the future of the project, Dhawan expressed optimism.
“It’s just nice that a collection of eight or 10 kids can just get together to talk about a project that seems huge, but could one day be achievable,” Dhawan said.