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SHINING A LIGHT ON THE HOMELESS IN GRAND RAPIDS.

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INTRODUCTION WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS? ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE THE FUTURE OF HOMELESSNESS VISIBLE


INTRODUCTION

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PREFACE

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Allison Groenendyk, 2019

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INTRODUCTION

In this publication I will be covering all things regarding the homeless community in Grand Rapids, MI. This is a cause that I am very passionate about and I want to try and shine a light on the people and organizations within Grand Rapids that are making a huge difference. I want this publication to be more of a positive experience and focus on the good that is happening for the future of homelessness. While also focusing on the good that the organizations in Grand Rapids are doing for people and how they are providing resources that are helping people get back on their feet. I want to do this rather than focusing on just the negative aspects of the situation, we see enough of that already.


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WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS?

Before we get into some more positive things happening in the homeless community, we need to discuss why people are homeless. There is a stigma that people seem to think that the only reason people are homeless is because they are addicted to either drugs or alcohol. And while that could be the case for some people, that isn’t the only way someone could become homeless. There are actually many different ways. To actually grasp the concept of homelessness and who and why people are, we need to look at some statistics. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on a single night in 2018, a total of 552,830 people experience homelessness. That number means that 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States are homeless. They also mention how 67% of people that are homeless are individuals where as the remaining 33% are families with children. Recently there has been more focus and insight on the subpopulations in the homeless population Youth, typically people under 25, are a subpopulation. This group is living on their own without children and or a family. This group actually makes up 7% of the total homeless population. Also in recent years, there has been more efforts made by the government to target the veterans that are experiencing homelessness. This group makes up 7% of the homeless population. They are also trying to target people who are chronically homeless, which is about 18% of the population. Chronic homelessness is a term that is used to describe people who experience homelessness for at least a year or even repeatedly. These people are not only homeless but they are also struggling with conditions such as mental illness, substance use disorder or a physical disability. While mental and physical struggles can obviously play a role in the people who are going through homelessness, gender and racial demographics are very important in the American homeless story. The homeless population in America is mostly male. Among the individ

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HOUSING

One of the biggest trends as to why more and more people are becoming homeless, especially in the past 20-25 years is the growing shortage of affordable renting housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. In the recent years foreclosures have increased the homeless population. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, they released a report that discussed What they found was that there was a 32% rise in the number of foreclosures between April 2008 and April

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WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS?

uals experiencing homelessness around 70% are men. The largest racial grouping is White Americans making up around 40% of the homeless population. However according to National Alliance to End Homelessness, African Americans and American Indians are dramatically overrepresented in the Point-in-Time Count compared to their numbers in the general population. While it is important to know what the statistics are for homelessness in America, we want to know what about specifically in Grand Rapids? According to Mel Trotter, a local homeless rescue mission in Grand Rapids, they say homelessness is on the rise in West Michigan. An estimated 8,495 people living in Kent County are literally homeless individuals and the three fastest growing populations of homelessness in West Michigan are families with children, single women, and youth which ranges from 18-24. Some even more startling statistics include that there is an estimated 3,300 homeless school-age kids in Kent and Ottawa counties, 115 is the number of families on the waiting list for shelter in Kent County, 200 youths are on the street each night in Grand Rapids. With all of these upsetting facts the serious question is why are all of these people homeless? and more importantly what are the reasons as to why someone can be homeless? There are in fact many different possibilities for why someone could end up being homeless.


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2009. While these dates are somewhat outdated, one can expect that since then the numbers have most likely rose because of the rising in the rental and housing prices over the last 10 years.

WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS?

POVERTY

Poverty is another reason why someone could be homeless. Poverty and homelessness go hand in hand in some situations. People who are poor have a harder time paying for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. In some circumstances, one might have to make a difficult choice when limited resources only cover some of the said necessities. Often people struggle the most with housing. Housing takes up a large chunk of someones income and usually that is dropped. Lack of affordable housing and the limited scale of housing assistance programs play a key role to the homeless and housing crisis. Since 2000, the incomes of people who live in low-income houses and areas has declined while the prices for rent has continued to rise. “The lack of the affordable housing has also led to high rent burdens (rents which absorb a high proportion of income), overcrowding, and substandard housing. These phenomena, in turn, have not only forced many people to become homeless; they have put a large and growing number of people at risk for becoming homeless. The access to housing assistance can make a huge difference and can mean the difference between stable housing, precarious housing, or no housing at all. The demand for assisted housing exceeds the supply. Around one-third of poor renter households receive a housing subsidy from the federal, state, or a local government. However, the limited amount of housing assistance means that most of the poor families and individuals are seeking housing assistance are placed on long waiting lists. Excessive waiting lists for public housing mean that people must remain in shelters or even

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inadequate housing arrangements longer. In a survey of 24 cities, people remain homeless an average of seven months, and 87% of cities reported that the length of time people are homeless has increased in recent years (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2005). While some of this data is a bit out of date it still holds true today. Longer stays in homeless shelters result in less shelter space available for other homeless people, this can cause people who can’t find space to resort to unfortunatley sleep on the streets.

National Alliance to End Homelessness

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WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS?

“ON A SINGLE NIGHT A TOTAL OF 552,830 PEOPLE EXPERIENCE HOMELESSNESS. THAT NUMBER MEANS THAT 17 OUT OF EVERY 10,000 PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES ARE HOMELESS.”


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While housing and poverty are some of the main issues of homelessness, especially when it comes to families, there are also a lot of other ways that someone can become homeless. One big reason is mental illnesses. People who are struggling with poor mental health are more susceptible to some factors that in turn could lead to homelessness. Those factors include disaffiliation, personal vulnerability and poverty. Some people with poor mental health have a harder time keeping employment, therefore they have little income and can struggle to get by. WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS?

MENTAL ILLNESS

Mental illness can also lead some people to withdraw from their family, friends or other people. With the withdraw from this kind of support, it can lead them to not have a lot of different resources, especially when they are in troubling times. Mental illness can also impair a person’s ability to be resilient and resourceful according to Homeless Hub; it can cloud their thinking and also impair their judgment. All of these reasons together can leave people struggling with mental illness at a greater risk of becoming homeless. Homelessness can even increase poor mental health. Experiencing the stress of being homeless can trigger previous mental illnesses and even cause anxiety, fear, depression, substance use and sleeplessness. However, it’s important to remember that the needs of someone who is homeless and has a mental illness are the same as someone who doesn’t have a mental illness. These needs include education, affordable housing, physical safety, transportation, and even affordable medical/ dental treatment. When someone is experiencing homelessness its very crucial to create a non-threatening and also a supportive atmosphere that can address someones basic needs like food and shelter, while also providing accessi-

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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Domestic violence is another way someone could

become homeless, even though one may not immediately think of this being a reason. Domestic violence is very common among single adults, youth, and families who become homeless. A lot of times it can immediately cause homelessness. The people who are survivors of domestic violence may seek out homeless service programs which can be a safe place to stay after running away from an abusive relationship. Other people will turn to service programs because they may lack the economic resources to maintain housing after leaving the abusive relationship

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ble care. According to Homeless Hub, people with mental illness experience homelessness for longer periods of time and have less contact with family and friends. 3035% of those who are experiencing homelessness and a staggering 75% of women who are experiencing homelessness, have mental illnesses. Around 20-25% of people who are homeless suffer from concurrent disorders, which are severe mental illnesses and also addictions. The people who have severe mental illnesses actually over-represent those experiencing homelessness because they are often released from hospitals and jails without the proper community supports in place for them when they get out. Homelessness could be reduced rather drastically if more community-based mental health services played a more important role such as access to supportive housing or other community supports. People who have mental illnesses struggle to maintain employment and are in poorer health than other homeless people. Better access to housing outreach services are crucial to helping provide them a safe place to live and help stabilize their mental illnesses. This in turn will help individuals with their journey to recovery.


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WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS?

The people who experience this particularly the most are youth and women, especially if they have children or not. The women who experience this type of violence can sometimes be forced to choose between being homeless or staying in their abusive relationship, especially if they live in poverty. The young people who are victims of either sexual, physical, or psychological abuse often end up experiencing homelessness. Seniors can also experience abuse or neglect which in turn can increase the risk of becoming homeless.

PERSONAL/RELATIONAL PROBLEMS Individual and relational factors can play a role

in the personal circumstances of a person who is experiencing homelessness. Some of these can include: traumatic events such as a house fire or a job loss, personal crisis is another reason an example of that could be a family break-up or domestic violence. Another reason, which we covered earlier is mental health or addiction challenges, this could be both a cause and or a consequence of homelessness, physical health problems, or even disabilities.

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National Alliance to End Homelessness

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WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS?

“ON A SINGLE NIGHT IN 2017, HOMELESS SERVICES PROVIDERS HAD MORE THAN 55,000 BEDS SET ASIDE FOR SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.”


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HO ARE ARE ADEQUATES. PEOPLE HOMES.” Sheila McKechnie

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ORGANIZATIONS

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ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

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HEARTSIDE MINISTRY

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16 success. Heartside offers different programs that helps give neighbors the help that they need in a variety of different ways. Heartside is all about compassion without judgment. Aside from the Education and Arts Program Heartside is also passionated about their faith. Heartside is a Christian organization that practices radical hospitality. Heartside welcomes everyone regardless of their faith journey and they don’t force their faith on their neighbors. At Heartside Ministry, their goal is to foster a community of equality. In some situations neighbors can feel oppressed or alone but Heartside makes it their mission to help them feel like they’re included, empowered and to become self-sufficient. Heartside Ministry is proud in the fact that they host a worship every Sunday and they have a crowd of 50 regular attendees. Heartside also counsels around 1,000 neighbors a year. They also provide many different services such as devotions, fellowship, pastoral counseling, baptisms, weddings, and memorials.

“THERE ARE NO REQUIREMENTS FOR PEOPLE TO ACCESS OUR SERVICES. THIS IS A PLACE THAT WELCOMES YOU AS YOU ARE, AS A PART OF THE WHOLE COMMUNITY.” VISIBLE

ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

An organization in Grand Rapids doing good work within the community is Heartside Ministry. In the beginning Heartside began as a small outreach to the people that were experiencing homelessness. At the time the neighborhood was pretty much abandoned by businesses and people. People typically avoided the area as well. Heartside was different though, and set out to help the people who were left behind. Heartside started programs that helped people and met their needs. The Art Studio began in the early 1990’s and soon throughout the years the woodworking shop and pottery studio were then added. The Art Studio has continued to be a place where people can express themselves and allow it to be their creative outlet. Soon after the Art Studio opened the adult literacy and GED classes started at Heartside. These programs were designed to help neighbors accomplish their personal best. It helped match students to different tutors for individualized help as opposed to a large class setting. In 2018 roughly 66 students graduated with their GED which was an all-time high number. Even today Heartside’s art gallery is still very busy and the GED students are still finding


17 INTERVIEW WITH AARON EDWARDS: ART COORDINATOR AT HEARTSIDE MINISTRY A: So how did you start working at Heartside Ministry, specifically the art program here? AE: I’ve always been an artist and I was working in an art studio full time and I decided to build up an art program for the homeless community. I’ve been here for about a year now.

ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

A: How long has the art program been around? AE: It’s not really a program at the moment, I’ve just been basically managing it and building it from the ground up. It’s a little chaotic right now but we are getting there. We are trying to get a more sustainable program going that way it’ll be easier to hand off to someone whenever I leave here. A: On an average day, how many people would you say come into the studio? AE: Roughly 20 individuals. We used to have a problem with drug dealers coming in frequently but we’ve been able to slowly stop those people from coming in. A: I read that people who come in here to create artwork are able to sell it, how does one go about selling their art here in the galleries? AE: We are basically connecting with the greater Grand Rapids community. We are basically a non-profit organization so we are always in need of donor support. When an artist shows work that has marketable value I’ll suggest they showcase their piece. We will then partner with them and draw up a contract. 75% of sales go to the artist and we will take 25% which will go towards materials. We really try to have a partnership with the people that come in here and it’s important to encourage people to participate in the business world and this is a good exercise for that.

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A: What kind of impact has allowing people to come in here and express themselves through art, had on them as individuals?

A: Are there any stories that stand out to you since you started working here? AE: The thing that I think about the most was that I wasn’t really prepared for this experience. Here I’m more of a guardian of the space. This is a space where people can relax and be quiet and they can have their materials to create and make art with. There are a lot of places where people just sit around and maybe just look at their phones but here we want the space to be quiet where people can really work hard. It took a lot of time to create this pure space where they can feel free to express

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ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

AE: There are really two main ways. The main thing is that homelessness is very isolating, frustrating, and sort of an embarrassing experience. People tend to withdraw into themselves during that process. Art is all about expressing yourself and creating something of value for yourself and for other people. Reversing that inward feeling makes them feel more positive and helps them not become too depressed. When you’re living on the street your reaction time is a lot different from you and I, they don’t plan for tomorrow instead they’re planning ten minuets from now, like where are they going to be or where are they going to eat. When you’re working on art it helps people to slow down and helps create an outlet for them, whether its working on a painting or even simply a coloring page. Completing a coloring page I’ve found is a huge step for some people. The second way is that creating art is a great stress reliever. It is stressful living on the streets, people aren’t getting enough sleep, their diet isn’t good and a lot of people are always drinking a lot of coffee, it’s actually rare to see someone drinking water in here. When you’re in here you can relax and create personal relationships. It’s a place to come and decompress which in turn can keep things calmer outside.


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themselves. We want to create that artist energy, where they can come in here and be inspired by other people and they can encourage each other. We really want to maintain that energy. When I started here the drug dealing was terrible and I didn’t know anything about it. Eventually people got used to me and saw that I was working hard and really trying to keep this space as pure as possible, keeping it peaceful and quiet. The people here had to teach me basically about who the bad guys were and over the next couple of months we started enforcing different rules to get the drug dealers out, I had to have a lot of awkward conversations with people [Laughs] but I’m proud of that. A: How can the community get involved and help an organization/program like this continue to do what it is doing? AE: We need a lot of volunteers from the outside, people tend to behave better when you have artists coming in and doing art with these people or just to talk to the people here. It really makes a big difference. It’s nice to have someone from the outside coming in here, it really raises awareness as well, it’s an important piece of the puzzle. When volunteers slow down and take an afternoon just to hang out down here, they learn a lot of different peoples lives and it really improves the space. A: What’re your personal thoughts on the future of homelessness? AE: We’ve gone through the opioid crisis, and chemical dependence is part of the equation when it comes to homelessness sometimes, it can put everything on hold while people are dealing with their substance abuse which can take years. Even people who are educated and like you and I can develop a drug addiction and in turn become homeless. I’ve seen it a lot. A lot of people are experiencing homelessness because of health issues and not having the proper health insurance to help with that.

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ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

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A: What kind of impact has working here made on you? AE: I love being in an art studio. It has really strengthened my compassion. Being in middle class and having those expectations, that everyone needs to pull their own weight, pick up their own mess, don’t cause a fuss and when people can’t do that, you’re immediate reaction would be to leave them alone, but here you have to be patient. People are here day after day and are trying to make their lives better but you have to be supportive of everyone and get to know where they are at in life. You also have to have zero judgment especially when it comes to lifestyle choices. Be here and be positive, and always reminding people that you’re here to help, you’re not alone and we are in this together. A lot of times the people here are in their heads and have given up on society, but we are meant to live together and be together and we need to look out for and take care of each other. It can’t be all about me and what I want. You have to be patient. It’s good for the people in this community to be experiencing. It’s important to be apart of an organization, like this one. We have resources here and we will hold you accountable. We will do everything we can to make improvements in these people’s lives. People have to show up and do work. VISIBLE

ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

I think there is always going to be a steady wave of people experiencing homelessness and there is always going to be a constant bumping along and people are always going to be dealing with it. A lot of people at a certain level are going to be at the shelters and maybe have some government benefits or a little bit of income to keep them going but they aren’t going to be living that middle class lifestyle like paying bills. Subsided apartments and along with the shelters are figuring out how to work together which is big for Grand Rapids. The homeless community isn’t going to go anywhere and you have churches that are trying to solve the problem, not push these people away. You can’t do that. A big piece of the puzzle is that as our society is developing we know that people need shelter, people need community, clothing and to help this community grow, getting people off of the streets is an important part of developing the economic part of Grand Rapids. We really need these facilities so they can offer resources that people need in order for these people to rebuild their lives to what extent they can. Get people off of the streets so they can develop.


25 HEARTSIDE MINISTRY GALLERY

A collection of photos from Heartside Ministry Art Gallery. Many people posing with artwork that was made by them and also photos showcasing the community this organization brings.

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“ , YO TO BE ABLE TO HOMELESSNESS. BU CAN DO A MUCH WE’RE DOING

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OU AREN’T GOING END UT WE JOB THAN .”

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Cliff Smith


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DÉGAGÉ

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“IF YOU CAN’T FEED A HUNDRED PEOPLE, THEN FEED JUST ONE.”

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Mother Teresa

ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Dégagé Ministries was founded in 1969 and prides itself on providing responsive programming that is designed to address immediate and long-term needs such as overnight shelter for women in crisis, food, referral services and hygiene facilities. Dégagé serves 400-500 individuals daily and sets out to help the homeless and disadvantaged individuals in the community of Grand Rapids. Men and women are living in a constant struggle between the streets and also the hope of survival. Many of these men and women are struggling with addictions, mental and physical disabilities, live in low-income housing that does little more than provide shelter. A lot of people spend the night at one of the city’s missions or are outdoors wandering the streets in search of a place that is warm and safe. There is also an uprising in individuals who are recently unemployed, unable to use their college degree, or are struggling after a major life event such as the loss of a loved one, foreclosure or a divorce. Many of the people are working poor, not earning enough to pay their bills. They serve as a reminder that no one is exempt from crisis and it’s always uncertain what the next day may bring. Dégagé is trying to change all of that and provide people with a safe place to stay as well as other services.


31 INTERVIEW WITH MARGE PALMERLEE: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT DÉGAGÉ MINISTRIES A: How did you start working at Dégagé? M: I started working here because I would go and volunteer with my son and from then I really fell in love with the organization. I’ve now been here for about 20 years now.

ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

A: Who do you typically see come into Dégagé? M: We see mostly men coming in. Roughly 70% to roughly 30% women. We are actually seeing an increase in younger people becoming homeless for the first time and a rise in the Hispanic population as well. People of color becoming homeless is also on the rise. The average age range that we see coming in the most is typically between the ages of 35-40. A lot of times the people who come in here can’t find jobs. A: Have you seen a trend in homelessness since you started working here? M: We are definitely seeing a trend when it comes to housing. A lot of people in Grand Rapids are on the edge and can’t afford rent. Recently there has been a lot of landlords of apartments that having been raising the rent even by $100 and that just immediately puts people out of a home. A: What are some of the services Dégagé offers? M: At Dégagé we offer a lot of different services, one of which includes the Dining Room. Seven days a week, breakfast and dinner meals are provided in the Dining Room. Our meals are offered at a low cost with the intent of promoting dignity and responsibility. Patrons are given the opportunity to choose what meal they would like to purchase and how they would like it prepared. Such a simple gesture grants them the opportunity to exhibit self-sufficiency rather than making them feel like a perpetual charity case. Most weekend

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ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

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meals are donated by local churches and they are free to the community. We also have our Hygiene Facilities and Basic Needs Program. We basically provide a place where one can brush their teeth, do laundry, iron clothes, comb one’s hair, use the rest room and wash one’s hands-all simple tasks, but tasks that can be impossible if you don’t have a place of your own. We also offer private showers at no cost, licensed professionals that volunteer their time twice a week to provide haircuts for people. Patrons can also purchase underwear, socks and shirts during operating hours. We also have over 70 lockers that are available to rent. The lockers provide a safe place for patrons to store their personal belongings while living in the mission or on the street. We also offer our Resource Office which provides individuals with one-on-one assistance in many areas like permanent or temporary housing needs, funding for prescription co-pays, transportation, job searches, clothing of furniture needs, referrals for health, dental and eye care needs, substance abuse treatment referrals, appointment scheduling, and completion of paperwork and applications. Our The Open Door Women’s Center at Dégagé provides a safe haven during the overnight hours to adult women in crisis. Staff is available during the day to assist with setting goals and exploring options for securing permanent sustainable housing. The Open Door provides services for female residents of Kent County who are eighteen years of age and older in need of shelter. The Open Door has a capacity of 40 women. The shelter opens at 7 p.m. and women are required to be in no later than 8 p.m., then women wake up at 6 a.m. and leave The Open Door by 7:30 a.m.. Staying at the Open Door is always free but Dégagé Dollars and cash can be used to purchase necessary items and laundry services. We also offer plenty of other programs like our ID Office, Building Community Program, Dégagé Dollars and our Voucher Program.


35 DÉGAGÉ MINISTRIES

A collection of photos from Dégagé Ministries

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“PERSONS WHO HA HOMELESS CARRY A CERTAIN WHICH MAKES THE ABOUT

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AVE BEEN WITHIN THEM OF LIFE EM APPREHENSIVE .”

Jerzy Kosinski

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GUIDING LIGHT

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40 and Chico Daniels. Under this group of people Guiding Light would outgrow their location and would move on to their current location on Division Ave S in Grand Rapids. Today Guiding Light continues to fulfill the mission that was set in place by its founders. They continue to provide services for the homeless and suffering. Downtown Grand Rapids was growing quickly in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. There were new businesses, restaurants, and artist communities. Grand Rapids would see the arrival of the Van Andel Arena and the DeVos Convention Center which would draw thousands of visitors to Grand Rapids every month and created thousands of new jobs in the downtown area. Since 2009, the executive director of Guiding Light, Stuart Ray, and along with the board and staff, they have been working hard to create measurable results with lasting change. Guiding Light puts an emphasis on independence, employment, and sustainable housing which has opened up a new world of challenges and possibilities. However, within the last several years of local job growth and economic healing, Guiding Light has been doing everything they can to help men face their addictions, get back on their feet and also take control of their lives. Guiding Light is an intensive

“GUIDING LIGHT PUTS AN EMPHASIS ON INDEPENDENCE, EMPLOYMENT, AND SUSTAINABLE HOUSING.”

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When someone thinks of shelters or programs for people experiencing homelessness, Guiding Light is on that comes to mind for a lot of people. Guiding Light was established in 1929 as West Fulton Mission. It was founded by a layman named John Van de Water. It really started when there was a need for meals in the community. After it moved to its new location, Guiding Light eventually received its certification from the state and it would begin to offer treatment for those who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. This started the S.T.A.R.T. Program and its since developed into the now The New Life in Christ program. Guiding Light was doing great until 1966 when people a part of the mission started getting sick and even dying. Guiding Light began to seriously consider closing their doors and eventually they did in 1968. Guiding Light suprisingly actually remained closed for one year until Jacob Vredevoog reopened Guiding Light as an independent faith project. He actually did this with his own money and relied on the support of local donors. Vredevoog helped with the organization until 1972 when he passed away. Guiding Light would then be led and eventually expanded by a number of directors which included Edward Oosterhouse, Herm Koning, Lucky Hobson


ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

41 drug and alcohol treatment program that is designed to give men structure and the opportunity to engage in change. They offer a four-to-six month residetial program that combines evidence-based practices, life-coaching, therapy, support groups and other resources that help men stay sober and live their life in a new way. Guiding Light provides men with a safe environment which is comprehensive and private. This gives them time to heal and space to change. Guiding Light relys on the generosity of the community and because of the generosity, Guiding Light is completely free. Their goal is formen to recover and begin a new relationship with the world. Guiding Light also provides a work program called Back To Work which is for men who are homeless and are seeking full-time employment. By being apart of this program it allows them to save some money while they look for permanent housing. This program is a strong solution for promoting financial independence through work. When someone joins the Back to Work program, the men are then given a bed, three meals a day and a rundown of all the tools needed to find a job. Tools such as their computer lab which is used for job research and also creating resumes. They will also receive job coaching as well as training in techniques for searches and also some daily encouragement and advice. Guiding Light also has a closet of suits

for any upcoming interviews. Men, if needed are also provided with transportation and also any prerequisites that they may need to accept a job offer like uniforms or work boots. Typically men will find a job within the first week. Once they find a job they will have around twelve-fifteen weeks to work their new jobs and save some money so that they can find a place to live. Aside from the different programs that Guiding Light offers, they also have a sober-living apartment called Iron House. The Iron House is three buildings that are next to each other and are in a safe and family-oriented neighborhood in Kentwood with one building closer to downtown Grand Rapids. They are for the men who have gone through the Guiding Light’s Recovery of Back to Work programs. At the Iron House all the residents that live their all have jobs and they are able to buy their own food, pay their own bills and engage with the others that live their too. They all look after and support each other which is a great practice for community. Guiding Light has seen a lot of impact of their work throughout the years. In fact the organization has seen roughly 29 men monthly who are currently in the Back to Work Program and roughly 44 men monthly who are currently in the Recovery Program at Guiding Light. And they hope these numbers continue to rise.

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42 “A DEDICATED BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND STAFF AT GUIDING LIGHT WORK TIRELESSLY TO CARVE OUT A PROGRAM THAT CREATES EMPLOYMENT, INDEPENDENCE AND SUSTAINABLE LIVING. AT GUIDING LIGHT, WE DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO HELP MEN FACE THEIR ADDICTIONS, GET BACK ON THEIR FEET, AND TAKE CONTROL OF THEIR LIVES.”

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THE FUTURE OF HOMELESSNESS

45 So what exactly does the future hold for people who are currently experiencing homelessness or future people who might be on the brink of experiencing it? the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness put out an article in October 26, 2016 about what exactly chronic homelessness is and what that means for the past, present, and future regarding the federal homelessness policy. In one section of the article they cover what is needed for the future regarding homelessness in America, specifically regarding homeless parents and children. “What is needed now, in this time of reflection and transition, is a new paradigm that connects cause and consequence throughout the human lifespan-from before birth through adulthood. This new paradigm must reject the grossly mistaken assumption that homeless parents and children simply need the housing-and that they are less vulnerable, easier to serve, and have fewer disabling conditions simply because they are not visible on the streets. We must contend with the complexity of family homelessness-its many layers and impacts. To do so, we must recognize that, while housing is a critical need of homeless families, it is not their only need: housing is necessary, but not sufficient. Nor are “mainstream services” for homeless parents and children the panacea claimed by some advocates. Mainstream services are often inaccessible, not only due to lack of funding, but because

homelessness itself creates barriers to accessing them: high mobility, lack of transportation, missing documentation, and lack of outreach all create barriers to accessing child care, early childhood programs, food, employment, education and health care. We are setting families up to fail if these barriers are not addressed with the same vigor that the federal government demanded of communities in assisting chronically homeless adults. We must acknowledge that homelessness presents qualitatively different perils for children and youth, necessitating different standards for eligibility and different standards for assessing risk. Their brains, bodies, and spirits are developing now. They cannot wait any longer to become a priority, or for solutions that meet their unique and comprehensive needs. What should drive the vision of the next administration? We propose a realistic, two-generational approach to family and youth homelessness, grounded in the interconnected and equally vital roles of housing, education, early care, and services. Indeed, without early care and education, the prospect of affording any kind of housing as an adult is slim, making today’s homeless children more likely to become tomorrow’s homeless adults. A two-generational approach to ending family homelessness calls for full engagement of child care, early learning programs, schools, and other children’s services as essential and equal partners with

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THE FUTURE OF HOMELESSNESS

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THE FUTURE AND GOOD NEWS?

47 housing agencies and homeless service providers. In addition, homeless assistance services, program design, outcomes, and policies must be built around the specific and unique needs of children and youth as clients-with needs equal to, but separate from and different than, the needs of their parents. While these measures are ultimately the best long-term approach to addressing both single adult and family homelessness, they cannot be packaged neatly into a 10-year-plan, ‘ending’ homelessness by 2020, or in other marketing campaigns masquerading as public policy. In sum, if the national dialogue and outline for action on family homelessness is limited to initiatives that provide housing for a narrowly and artificially defined segment of homeless children, youth, and families, minimize the role of essential services (including education), and ignore or treat as an after-thought children’s unique developmental needs, we will be generating poverty and homelessness for the foreseeable future. We will not truly end chronic homelessness, or any other kind of homelessness, until the complex realities and comprehensive needs of homeless children and youth take the front seat in federal homelessness policy. Only then will we see true cost saving and real homelessness prevention, albeit with a longer time frame” (ICPH). ICPH’s take on the future on homelessness is just one of many different views and opinions. It’s

hard to really narrow down one thing that could entirely fix the homeless crisis. It could be a plethora of things like the housing problem, education, better access to services, etc. A BBC article posted in October 2018 called, Homeless in US: A deepening crisis on the streets of America covers the crisis. “Many have arrived on the streets just recently, victims of the same prosperity that has transformed cities across the US West Coast. As officials struggle to respond to this growing crisis, some say things are likely to get worse. Vibrant Portland, Oregon’s largest city, has long lured many. However the booming demand in an area with limited housing quickly drove the cost of living up, and those who were financially on the limit lost the ability they once had to afford a place. Many were rescued by family and friends, or government programs and non-profit groups. Others, however, ended up homeless. The lucky ones have found space in public shelters. Not a few are now in tents and vehicles on the streets. ‘Even though the economy has never been stronger,’ Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, said, ‘inequality [is] growing at an alarming rate and the benefits from a [growing] economy are increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands... We have increasing disparity all across the United States, and that’s definitely impacting people.’ His city is indeed not alone. Homelessness has increased in other thriving West Coast cities that

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48 sion that included visits to Los Angeles and San Francisco. It resulted in a scathing report in which he said the American dream was, for many, rapidly becoming the American illusion - the Trump administration strongly criticized his findings. The future, he warned in an interview, did not look promising. ‘The federal government’s policies under this administration have been cut back, as much as possible, on various housing benefits and I think the worst is probably yet to come.’ ‘People are simply trying to survive and they don’t have the means to do so,’ Kimberly McCullough, Policy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon. ‘We’re seeing a crisis of our humanity and how we’re going to treat and help each other’” (BBC). While a lot of articles seem grim about the future of homelessness and while it may actually be, there are of course some positive things that are happening when it comes to addressing this crisis. Shelters and organizations that are providing resources for people who are experiencing homelessness, are crucial. In order to sort of help solve the crisis, we need to create more shelters within our communities. I think that is the first step. It is important for people, wherever they live to make an effort to help these organizations out, whether its with volunteering some of your time, donating money or clothes, or spreading the word. Its a small step but its a small step into the right direction.

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are destinations for young, well-educated workers, like San Francisco and Seattle, where the blame hasalso largely fallen on rapidly rising costs and evictions. Exact numbers are always hard to come by but 553,742 people were homeless on a single night across the US in 2017, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said, the first rise in seven years. Declines in 30 states were overshadowed by big suggest elsewhere, with California, Oregon, and Washington among the worst. Los Angeles, where the situation has been described as unprecedented, had more than 50,000 people without homes, behind only New York City, which had 75,000. Homelessness, in Portland and beyond, seems to be more visible than ever. Residents are growing frustrated with the smell of urine, human feces and abandoned objects littering public spaces and, sometimes, their own doorsteps. In certain places, there is the feeling that this is a fight being lost. But this is a crisis long in the making. Cuts by the federal government to affordable housing programs and mental health facilities in the last few decades helped send many to the streets nationwide, officials and service providers said, as local authorities were unable to fill the gaps. The current afford-ability problem is now adding to it. Australian academic Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, traveled across the US for two weeks last December in a mis-


49 SOURCES HOMELESS HUB-CAUSE OF HOMELESSNESS NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS-WHY ARE PEOPLE HOMELESS? NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END HOMELESSNESS-STATE OF HOMELESSNESS INSTITUTE FOR CHILDREN, POVERTY & HOMELESSNESS-ARE WE CREATING CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS? THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF FEDERAL HOMELESSNESS POLICY THE HOMELESS CHARITY AND VILLAGE- THE FUTURE OF HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END HOMELESSNESS-DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOMELESS HUB-MENTAL HEALTH U.S. NEWS-10 FACTS ABOUT HOMELESSNESS IN THE U.S. GUIDING LIGHT HEARTSIDE MINISTRY WISE OLD SAYINGS-HOMELESSNESS SAYINGS AND QUOTES DEGAGE MINISTRIES CHARITY NAVIGATOR-DEGAGE BBC NEWS-HOMELESS IN US: A DEEPENING CRISIS ON THE STREETS OF AMERICA THE ATLANTIC-HOW CAN THE U.S. END HOMELESSNESS? IMAGE SOURCES: GOOGLE IMAGES PEXELS DEGAGE MINISTRIES (FACEBOOK) HEARTSIDE MINISTRY (FACEBOOK) GUIDING LIGHT (FACEBOOK)

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A publication about the homeless community in Grand Rapids.

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A publication about the homeless community in Grand Rapids.

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