As it gets colder and the snow starts to fall, a coalition of community, nonprofit and business leaders are working together to provide safe emergency shelter for residents of the Heartside neighborhood who are experiencing homelessness. 

An alliance led by Mel Trotter Ministries, Guiding Light, the City of Grand Rapids, and Kris Elliott of Evergreen Companies, has leased space at 250 Ionia Ave. SW in downtown Grand Rapids. The space will accommodate what experts say could be 100 people a night who are seeking shelter, many who have been staying in tents in Heartside Park and other locations around the city. 

The group is working now to transform the 30,000 square foot space, which is the former Purple East, into a warming center and overnight shelter. The hope is to have the space ready by the end of the week. 

Dennis Van Kampen, president and CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries said in a release, 

Between the coming snows and COVID-19, those experiencing homelessness are more vulnerable than ever this year. This is compounded by an anticipated rise in evictions in the coming year, which will put even more people at risk on the streets. Safe affordable housing is increasingly difficult to come by in our community, let alone during these times. We are gratified by the willingness of the public, private and nonprofit sectors to join together to address this immediate need.

Mel Trotter Ministries, which has capacity to house 425 people a night at their facility, will manage day-to-day operations at 250 Ionia. The nonprofit will also work with those who seek shelter to obtain permanent housing. Guiding Light is providing assistance with clothing, shoes, food and personal care items.

Stuart Ray, executive director of Guiding Light, said in a statement,

It is incumbent on all of us with means to ensure those without have the basics this winter – a warm, safe place to sleep, nutritious food to eat and the ability to keep themselves out of harm’s way from COVID-19. When no one organization owns a problem, nothing gets done – and winter is almost upon us.  We lend our full support to this coalition of compassionate community partners who have stepped in to care for those living at the margins of society. They are our neighbors – and they deserve to be treated as such. 

Anyone wanting to help the coalition with the emergency shelter can make tax-free donations online to Mel Trotter Ministries or Guiding Light 

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