City works to find solutions to homelessness

Published on December 15, 2020



UPDATE: Mel Trotter Ministries’ opened the winter emergency shelter the weekend of Dec. 18. It has provided a safe, healthy, and warm alternative to those in our community experiencing homelessness. Following the opening of the shelter more than 50 people a night have sought the shelter’s services. 

Beginning Dec. 23, the City of Grand Rapids began addressing the unsafe conditions at the encampment at Heartside Park. Through a compassionate, person-centered, approach, City workers and community service providers were able to work with the individuals camping in the park to help them seek alternative arrangements – including sheltering options and storage for personal property. This approach allowed workers to account for the unique individual needs of the those living in the encampment. 

You can learn more about the City’s efforts at Heartside Park here.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Announcement of a new winter emergency shelter in the Heartside neighborhood* is the latest measure taken by the City of Grand Rapids and its partners to assist persons experiencing homelessness. It’s part of a larger series of actions taken by City Hall to lead, promote and support solutions to homelessness.

This year alone, the City of Grand Rapids has already invested more than $2 Million in CARES Act funds in expanded efforts to address homelessness – including a project with Community Rebuilders for geographically targeted housing outreach. To date, the project has moved 50 persons off the street and into safe and temporary housing and connected 42 persons to a permanent housing resource.  The City has also created a Homelessness Work Group, appointed the City’s first homelessness coordinator, and formed the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Fire Department, Grand Rapids Police Department and Network180.

The Grand Rapids City Commission today approved a budget amendment that highlights the City’s new investments supporting homelessness efforts. Those efforts include: 

  • Extending the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) for six months and to extend outreach and services to 8 p.m. – COST: $798,000 + 138,000 for expansion
  • Retaining a dedicated eligibility specialist with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for the Eviction Prevention Program in the 61st District Court – COST: $66,700
  • *Supporting additional emergency shelter for five months for persons experiencing homelessness through a partnership with Mel Trotter Ministries to lease 250 Ionia SW  – COST: $165,000

Mel Trotter Ministries’ overflow emergency shelter is a public-private partnership that includes Guiding Light, the City of Grand Rapids and Kris Elliott of Evergreen Companies. It will provide overnight shelter and serve as a warming center during the day.

“It is important to provide alternatives and work toward solutions with these latest investments,” said City Manager Mark Washington. “The City’s commitment to combating homelessness exceeds $3 million in CARES Act and other funds as part of our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are providing new supports for homeless persons and are partnering in new ways.”

Interim Homelessness Coordinator Tammy Britton said opening additional overflow emergency shelter near Heartside Park will ensure residents have a new, safe, warm place to stay this winter, which is especially timely in the holiday season.

“Our efforts – aligned with the goals stated in the City’s strategic plan ­– work towards our goal of ensuring all residents have safe, stable and permanent housing,” Britton said. “We do that through active partnerships in community efforts to end homelessness and supporting programs that provide permanent housing solutions through the use of evidence-based practices.”

Those experiencing homelessness are encouraged to seek shelter where they will be safe from the winter elements and can benefit from COVID-19 safety precautions in accordance with the CDC guidelines. These include mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, temperature checks, weekly COVID-19 testing provided by the Kent County Health Department with support from Degage Ministries and Mel Trotter Ministries, hand sanitizer stations, bed shields, a virus killing bio-fogger, PPE for staff and an offsite location for anyone testing positive for COVID-19.

If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness and is in need of emergency housing, please contact 211.

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