Financial and government aid from Washtenaw County Community Services Group.

Operating across Washtenaw County, the non-profit Employment Training and Community Services Group works to help those facing poverty. They offer referrals to departments that can process applications for government programs such as LIHEAP for paying heating bills and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. However many other social services resources are available to the very low income and people facing poverty.

The resources in the county are limited, and applicants need to meet all conditions of the programs in question. They will also need to participate in various case management sessions that work to address the root cause of the hardship.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program – CSFP distributes surplus government commodities and food items on a monthly basis to individuals who are 60 years of age and older. CSFP also serves pregnant women, newborn babies and infants, and children under six years of age who do not qualify for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, so it supplements other public aid available in the area.

The Community Services Group works with local churches and charities on this service. Each month, individuals and participating facilities receive boxes of food at distribution centers located throughout the greater Washtenaw County region.

Another key federal assistance resource to combat hunger is TEFAP. This program distributes food or free groceries on a quarterly basis to the low-income community and working poor from local pantries. There may be support from soup kitchens in Ann Arbor and nearby towns.

Income-eligible individuals and families can save money by making their homes more energy efficient through the federal government and state of Michigan home weatherization assistance program. Under this free energy conservation service, staff from local community action agencies inspects clients’ residence to determine the weatherization tasks that need to be performed on it. A focus is on addressing older and less energy efficient homes in Washtenaw County.




Based on the results, and subsequent to that inspection, a licensed weatherization contractor is assigned to do the work. The process typically includes tuning up the furnace, attic, wall and floor insulation, repairing roofs, installation of weather stripping, window caulking and other minor home repairs. In some cases there can be repairs made to furnaces, in particular during the cold Michigan winter months.

Another option is home rehabilitation in Michigan. This can issue funds in the form of loans to help clients make improvements to their homes. The staff from Washtenaw County Community Services Group examines the residence and the organization acts as a trustee because this program is after all a low interest rate loan that must be repaid.

In limited cases, volunteers from the community are coordinated to provide emergency repairs if homes are deemed unsafe. Any team doing the work will be supervised, and there may be some fees and financial commitment due from the homeowner. The program adheres to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s (MSHDA) housing quality standards.

Furthermore, the property improvement program helps qualified clients install safety measures that can include insulation and handicapped ramps for the disabled in the community. The non-profit agency also works to replace heating systems and roofs, among other services, and this is in addition to weatherization mentioned above.

During the cold Michigan winter, Community Services Group provides applications to financial assistance for utility or heating bills to help clients avoid loss of their primary utility service. There may also be heating oil or propane provided too as part of LIHEAP. Eligible households must have received a disconnection notice, satisfy income guidelines and be able to pay for future service.





Low income workers in need of supplies or direct financial aid can turn to the organization for support or referrals. The agency or local clothing closets offer clothing, food, gas, car repairs, and medical or free dental services.

Applications for public aid such as Medicaid and LIHEAP are processed, often in partnership with DHS. This is a state and federal government funded medical insurance plan for income-qualified persons. Residents of the county can call the State of Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) for more details.

Community Services Group recommends that low-income and impoverished Washtenaw residents call the United Way agency for further information regarding support services and emergency aid that may be provided. While resources are stretched thin and limited, there are various non-profits that may be able to help or even no interest rate loans.

Income-eligible individuals and families can learn about referrals as well as energy conservation and weatherization as noted above. There may also be government grants for one time rent help, mortgage and utility subsidies; financial assistance with deliverable home-heating fuels, such as oil, propane, wood and coal. Other programs in the county can be volunteer transportation; low-income housing; CSFP; and other many other services.

Residents facing poverty or the unemployed can set forth on a path toward self-sufficiency by making use of case management, employment, and related intake services. Family development specialists from the community action agency or its partners help qualified clients establish goals and conduct strength-based assessments to promote self-reliance over the long term.




The organization assists eligible Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County residents with tax return preparation. Clients are helped on a first-come, first-served basis and must call to schedule an appointment. They get professional advice and even free filing services during the spring months.

The best number to call for referrals and information on Washtenaw County services is 1-866-953-4357. Information can be provided to those that qualify.


By Jon McNamara

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