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Grand Rapids partners with Mel Trotter Ministries to expand shelter, storage this winter

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Posted at 11:08 AM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 11:08:00-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids City Commission supported on Tuesday a $330,000 agreement with Mel Trotter Ministries to expand access to overnight shelter, day center accommodations and availability of storage for personal belongings for unhoused residents.

Funds will support facility leasing and operation costs, a news release said Wednesday.

Connie Bohatch, managing director of community services, said the city has been working for several months to secure a location for expanded sheltering.

Mel Trotter staff are working on making needed improvements to the facility located at 200 S. Division Ave., and it’s expected to open by Dec. 1.

“We are happy to partner again with Kent County, Guiding Light and Mel Trotter Ministries to ensure appropriate bed capacity is available and there is a warm, dry place to be during the day over the winter months,” Bohatch said.

The facility will operate as low barrier – meaning some traditional shelter rules won’t be in place to encourage more people to come indoors, including providing lockers to secure legal items typically not allowed in the shelter and providing accommodations for couples.

A personal belongings storage program will also be piloted at the facility.

Guests and others will have access to secured carts to keep their belongings in a safe place.

The idea came from the city’s Homeless Outreach Team, which interacts with unhoused residents every day and found lack of storage to be an obstacle for some going into shelter or going to work and would help keep the city clean.

Bohatch said operational details are still being worked out, but city officials plan to provide access to storage eight hours each day for blocks of time in the morning, afternoon and evening.

The city’s portion of funding – covering one-fourth of the shelter and day center costs for six months and one year of storage program operations – will be from the American Rescue Plan Act.