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Detroit's Freedom House may have to close

Nick Hagen
Freedom House
Room at Freedom House

Detroit's Freedom House has lost its federal funding for the first time in more than 20 years. And it may have to shut down or substantially reduce its services.

Freedom House provides transitional housing and comprehensive services under one roof to asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution, rape and torture in their home countries. 

Executive Director Deborah Drennan said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development denied Freedom House's grant application in December, and Freedom House has appealed the decision.  

She said the amount requested, around $392,000, represents about 60% of Freedom House's total budget. 

"The decision came to us as quite a shock with only three months notice," said Brennan. 

Brennan said HUD has shifted priorities from transitional housing to permanent housing, but that shouldn't have counted against Freedom House's application.

"We meet HUD's criteria in outcomes," said Brennan. "Freedom House this past year had 94% of our residents who exited into permanent, stable housing without subsidies."

Drennan said the possibility of Freedom House's closing is causing great stress to its residents. 

"Human life is at stake here," said Drennan. "People who don't have access to legal aid or housing, they become at risk for homelessness. They become at risk for being victims of human trafficking."

Drennan said if asylum seekers are homeless, it is more likely they may be deported back to the countries they fled where they likely will be persecuted or even killed.

Freedom House has been helping asylum seekers since 1983. In the 1980s many of its residents were from El Salvador. Now the vast majority are from sub-Saharan Africa.