Peace Neighborhood Center is on the west side of Ann Arbor, yet sixty to seventy percent of its requests for emergency assistance come from the Ypsilanti area. “Families in 48197 and 48198 are some of the most under-resourced communities in Washtenaw County,” says executive director Bonnie Billups Jr. But Peace doesn’t have a location in Ypsilanti, and many Ypsi residents lack transportation to Ann Arbor to receive services.
That’s about to be remedied. This month, the nonprofit takes official possession of the former St. Mark Lutheran Church, on Harris Rd. in Ypsi Township. St. Mark closed because of declining membership and gave its building to Ann Arbor’s Zion Lutheran, which in turn gave it to Peace. It will become the HUB (Healing, Unifying, and Building) Resource Center.
“The design of the HUB is different from Peace Neighborhood Center,” explains Billups. “The model for HUB is that Peace would be sort of the coalition leader and that we would work with other groups who are already doing some of the work within Ypsilanti.”
They’ve met with residents and groups ranging from Our Community Reads to Habitat for Humanity—which, he points out, doesn’t have a physical presence in the area even though most of its clients are there. They also sent out a paper survey (with a web link) to the nearby Sugarbrook and Gault Village neighborhoods, which Billups describes as a food desert miles from grocery stores.
The research thus far shows a need for a food pantry; youth programs; a senior program space; case managers to help residents access and apply for community resources, benefits, and support services; health and training programs; educational support for kids; and advocacy for people in the court system.
Billups says that renovations to the former church—including improving the bathrooms and upgrading the kitchen—will likely begin this month. They hope to open the HUB in October.