UWBCKR’s Elchert Earns Statewide Honor

Robert Elchert is the 2018 Public Policy Champion, named by the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.

Unwavering commitment to helping the homeless has earned a statewide award for a United Way BCKR staff member.

The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH) has named Robert Elchert, Community Impact Associate for United Way BCKR, as its 2018 Public Policy Champion.

MCAH, a statewide, nonprofit membership organization addressing homelessness and affordable housing, awards the Public Policy Champion to an individual or agency exemplifying and embodying advocacy and/or awareness efforts that have a direct positive impact on the issue of homelessness.

Elchert has championed efforts to provide valid IDs to individuals experiencing homelessness in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. Each year tens of thousands of Michiganders without an ID are denied housing, services, resources or even a night in a hotel. He was a founding member and continues to be a co-chair of the Calhoun-Kalamazoo County Regional ID Task Force that led the effort to implement the Michigan Secretary of State’s program to allow homeless individuals to use alternative documentation to get a state ID in Calhoun County and fee waivers for vital records in both Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. In just the first five months of the Kalamazoo Vital Record Program, more than 120 individuals have obtained their vital records.

“Robert envisioned a community where acquiring something as simple as personal identification was not a barrier to gaining basic needs and ultimately, self-sufficiency. He articulated his vision, inspired people to join him and managed its delivery. His commitment and leadership have influenced a multi-county policy change,” said Nicole DuPont with the Coordinating Council of Calhoun County. “Hundreds of people’s lives have been changed for the better due to Robert’s perseverance.”

Within his role at UWBCKR, Elchert works collaboratively with community stakeholders on identifying and solving problems for low-income and vulnerable clients in the region. Prior to joining UWBCKR in 2015, Robert worked as the Director of Social Services for an Aldermanic office on the south side of Chicago for over eight years. He holds a B.A. in International Studies from Portland State University and a M.A. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

“Robert is a true ally in the work to end homelessness in Michigan,” said Eric Hufnagel, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. “His work with us to understand and advocate for smart policy to break down barriers to accessing state IDs for those experiencing homelessness has been essential in our progress on this important issue.”

MCAH will honor him at its fifth annual Breakfast of Champions on May 31. The Breakfast of Champions celebrates the accomplishments of the more than 500 agencies working to end homelessness in Michigan.