"When a person comes through these doors the resources are here."
-Former Alpha House Family
Frequently Asked Questions
How long has Alpha House Existed?
The Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) was founded in 1992 and operated as a rotating shelter for families until 2001, when St. Joseph Mercy Hospital donated the use of Alpha House as a permanent shelter for $1/year. In 2017 we celebrate our 25th anniversary of serving children and parents experiencing homelessness in our community.
How do families come to us? Who are the families?
Families are referred to Alpha House from the Housing Access of Washtenaw County (HAWC). In the fall of 2011, our county implemented a single point of entry so people seeking shelter only need to make one phone call. Housing Access conducts a brief assessment and refers to the appropriate agencies for services, if available. To find out more about Housing Access of Washtenaw County, visit
Families come to Alpha House may have prior evictions, criminal history, utility or other debt, or barriers to obtaining housing. Most of our families are working, although many are underemployed or employed at minimum wage jobs. Our Housing Support Coordinators work with them to identify their strengths and increase their resources.
How long do families stay at Alpha House?
The maximum stay is 90 days due to funding restrictions. Alpha House follows a Housing First model, which encourages diversion from shelter and shortened stays. We seek to re-house families as rapidly as possible, with 30 days being our target. Currently, the average length of stay for a family at Alpha House is between 30-40 days.
How many families can we shelter?
We shelter between 50 and 60 families each year. As we work to rapidly re-house families, shelter space is available more often, and we can serve more families. Alpha House has the capacity to shelter six families at one time. We also work with an additional 40-50 families who are literally homeless in the community, are staying at other shelters, or who are housed and in our follow-up program.
What do we do for families that stay here?
Our services guide families through a plan to secure and maintain stable housing. This includes:
Safe and secure emergency shelter with three meals daily
Help finding employment, increasing income, budgeting, and saving
Support in identifying and securing affordable housing
Structured play and support for children
Parenting skills and support
Connections to essential services such as childcare, transportation to school, and health care
How do the children get to school?
Federal legislation (McKinney Vento Act) guarantees transportation to their "home" school for children who are experiencing homelessness. Alpha House staff work closely with the Education Project of Washtenaw Intermediate School District to arrange transportation to and from school for our children. If families choose to leave their "home" school when they come to Alpha House, their children ride the school bus to the local school.
Do we provide childcare?
At present, we do not provide child care, although we hope to in the future. Our Children's Services Specialist works closely with parents to access affordable child care options in the community and to apply for child care scholarships.
Do families always leave with housing? What happens to those who leave without housing?
No, families do not always leave Alpha House with housing. When a family leaves without housing, our staff works to ensure they are moving into a safe situation. Families who leave without housing still have the option of continuing to work with our Home-Based Support Program to achieve the goals they identified while staying at Alpha House. These goals include budgeting, increasing or maintaining income, paying down debt, and securing permanent housing.
Do most families have transportation?
Few families at Alpha House have reliable transportation. Many rely on friends, relatives, or co-workers to get to work. Others rely on public transportation, which is very limited in Washtenaw County. It can also be incredibly challenging for single parents and large families to get multiple small children on a bus, get them to day care, and then get to work, only to do the same thing at the end of the day. We gratefully accept donations of used cars in good working condition which we pass along to families.
Can we volunteer at other times besides when our congregation is here?
Yes! You can be added to our list of back-up volunteers who agree to be contacted when we are in need of help cooking and serving dinner, Activity Time, or as an overnight volunteer. Volunteers over the age of 18 should also ask how to be an Alpha Volunteer. We also support groups/individuals who would like to organize a work day or donation drive; parent/teen volunteer pairs; cleaning and organizing areas of the shelter; yard work and much more!
To discuss your interests in volunteering with IHN @ Alpha House more specifically, please contact Kathy Koehler, Volunteer Coordinator, by phone (734-249-5014) or by email ().
How is IHN @ Alpha House funded?
IHN @ Alpha House has a wide base of financial support. In addition to numerous in-kind donations, we are supported by donations from individuals and businesses; family and corporate foundations; congregations; civic organizations (including Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, West Washtenaw Business Association, Girl Scouts, etc.) and government grants (HUD, FEMA, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor). Currently we are funded almost equally by government sources and private donations.
IHN @ Alpha House has experienced ongoing reductions in all levels of government funding. Now more than ever local families and children experiencing homelessness desperately need IHN's support services to find and maintain secure housing - a basic need. If you are interested in learning more about how your donation or your business's donation to IHN @ Alpha House could make a real difference in a child's life, please contact Lisa Ziske, Director of Development, by phone (734-249-5002) or by email ().