Center to open for homeless teenagers and runaways in Grand Rapids

Posted at 9:12 PM, Jul 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-30 21:12:43-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A local church is teaming up with another organization to help homeless teenagers and runaways in Grand Rapids.

Mars Hill Bible Church and Arbor Circle will be transforming a vacant building on State Street into a drop-in center.

There, the youth can get connected to resources like housing options, employment support and trauma counseling.

"The CEO at Arbor Circle said it really well, he said, 'these are nobody's kids and so they're our kids," Andy Soper, with Mars Hill Bible Church said.

The building in downtown Grand Rapids will become 'HQ.' Soper and Julie Cnossen, from Arbor Circle, are coming together in the effort. Cnossen said on any given night, 200 kids are in a situation of homelessness. However, they're not always easy to spot.

"People are more familiar with what adult homelessness looks like and youth homelessness has been largely hidden," Cnossen said. "Our youth are trying to go to school or hold down a job or raise their children and there's all kinds of fears about what it would mean if I were to disclose this."

Coming to the HQ is just a temporary fix, Soper said. While there, people can get the tools they need to work toward a better life.

"Harbor Circle, if you look right back there in that suite, will have their own offices so they can do case management and housing referrals and trauma counseling and working with kids toward their GED's and job training."

The HQ is expected to open in the summer. Kids can come in after school until 6:30 p.m. Programs will be offered from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Mars Hill Bible Church is putting up the initial money for the building, renovation and program. Soper said they'll get additional funding but that they'll also need help from local organizations.