GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) – Kent Intermediate School District estimates that 2,098 school age children experienced homelessness last school year. These districts include 20 public schools and several private and charter schools in Kent County.
The majority of the services to help struggling families connect to resources are concentrated in downtown Grand Rapids. However, the issue of homelessness reaches beyond the inner city and into rural areas, where a staggering number of families are facing homelessness due to a variety of reasons.
Mel Trotter Ministries (MTM) was invited to form partnerships with organizations in rural areas to address the crisis together; North Kent Connect (formerly North Kent Community Services) and Cedar Springs Public Schools are two of those organizations. MTM felt called to respond by hiring an outreach advocate to build relationships in rural areas. The outreach advocate connects individuals and families in crisis with resources to help them overcome barriers such as a lack of housing, finances, transportation, domestic violence and other issues.
“As an organization we have come to realize that if there is a need for our services and ministry in areas outside of the core city, it is our responsibility to partner with organizations to meet those needs. This crisis is too big for any one organization or individual, but it’s not too big for all of us to come together and solve,” said Dennis Van Kampen, CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries.
The MTM outreach advocate has weekly office hours at North Kent Connect and at the Cedar Springs Public Schools administration building. The advocate will also provide outreach services to people living in camps and motels.
“Through this partnership, our families have access to the support they need to help them move through homelessness and into the next step of their lives,” said Stacie Voskuil, Director of Special Education and Student Services at CSPS. “The connections and knowledge that MTM brings will have a ripple effect that could help end homelessness in our district. This affiliation will also bring a spotlight to the issue of homelessness within Cedar Springs.”
Last summer, 191 families were on the waiting list to get into emergency shelter in Kent County.