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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: 'Open Doors' Provides Escape From Homelessness

Earlene McMichael | WMUK

What's being done about homelessness in Kalamazoo? A new U-M report finds Kalamazoo Public Schools has the highest rate of homeless students in Michigan. One group having success is Open Doors Kalamazoo. It provides not just affordable housing, but support services to vulnerable families and individuals.

Founded in 1970 in Kalamazoo, Open Doors Kalamazoo owns and manages 101 units of affordable housing spread among 22 buildings, which includes apartments, homes and two homeless shelters.

One shelter is for women and another for men. Each sleeps six guests apiece. According to Open Doors Kalamazoo, two-thirds of its shelter guests are able to find jobs, save for future housing and maintain their sobriety.

"We believe that building relationships to overcome homelessness is key to who we are as an organization," Deputy Director Stephanie Hoffman says on today's WestSouthwest, the news and public affairs show on WMUK.

"We do that by providing housing, employment solutions (and) by encouraging our shelter guests and (permanent housing) residents to continue with their education. And, one of the key pieces for us is for persons in recovery to live a sober life."

Open Doors Kalamazoo accepts housing applications only once a year in August, and there's always a waiting list, Hoffman says.

Hoffman is joined on WestSouthwest by Erika Lee, programs manager who shares her story of being one of the nonprofit's former shelter guests.

WestSouthwest airs 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays on WMUK, the NPR station based at Western Michigan University.