Highland Park residents fight HHS closing

State workers and frustrated residents rally in Highland Park to get the doors reopened at the city's Health and Human Services Office. It's been closed for nearly a year, making things harder for people who rely on state assistance, but officials said they didn't have a choice.

Protesters were outside the DHS office to protest what they say is the planned closing of Department of Health and Human Services offices including this one in Highland Park

State officials say they temporarily closed this location last May because of safety concerns, such as a water pressure issue, with the building. But the union representing the state employees assigned to this office say the closing impacts people in one of of the state's low-income communities.

"We have people here who do not have transportation, many people who are immobile due to health issues, many senior buildings and people don't have resources to travel other locations assigned to," Kelly Barnett with UAW Local 6000 said.

Gennie Berry who lives in Highland Park and says she now has to travel to Hamtramck to get the services she needs

"Very inconvenient cause you have to wait for workers to contact you back when this office was open just come in and see them," Berry said.

Organizers say the repairs needed in the building are fixable and they want the state to do the work so the doors can reopen. 

"We need it to be fixed we need building to be reopened so resources can be provided to people in community," 

A representative for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says they understand the concerns of their staff and customers and are working to address the issues at the Highland Park office. Officials also say they are locating many staff members out in the community such as schools and hospitals so they are more accessible.

But Pastor David Bullock says many people from his church in Highland Park use this office and he is calling on the governor to do something now.

"Governor Snyder should be the governor of folks who live in Highland Park and he should fight to make sure they have same services everybody else has," Bullock said.
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