A group of community partners opened a temporary shelter at a local high school for women who are experiencing homelessness.
Kent County and the city of Grand Rapids’ emergency management divisions said last week they have partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, Mel Trotter Ministries and The Salvation Army to establish a temporary shelter for women experiencing homelessness who are presumed negative for COVID-19.
The facility, at Catholic Central High School, 319 Sheldon Blvd. SE in downtown Grand Rapids’ Heartside neighborhood, will allow permanent shelters in the area to reduce their daily populations so individuals experiencing homelessness are better able to socially and physically distance, the partners said.
“We are called as Catholics to care for our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable among us. While we’ve all been sheltering at home for the past month, many of our Heartside neighbors do not have that same option,” said Greg Deja, principal and CEO of Catholic Central. “Our decision to open our gymnasium as a dormitory reflects one of our core values at Catholic Central — to serve.”
The Catholic Central gymnasium can hold up to 75 women and provides shower facilities, food services provided by The Salvation Army and other essential services.
It will be primarily staffed by Kent County volunteers, the city of Grand Rapids Homeless Outreach Team and Mel Trotter Ministries staff.
The public-private partnership is meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in large congregate settings.
“This is an example of the entire community coming together to care for some of the most vulnerable in our community and do all we can to keep them safe. We are truly all in this together,” said Dennis Van Kampen, CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries. “My hope is that after this pandemic, we will have created connections and workgroups that continue to work together to solve some of our community’s most urgent issues.”
Allison Farole, emergency manager for the city of Grand Rapids, called the effort a “tremendous coordination” between organizations and the city and county.
“It is an important part of our efforts to help ensure the health and safety of our community,” she said. “We are grateful to our Homeless Outreach Team for assisting with the shelter’s opening and getting community members situated.”
Volunteers for all shifts are needed and will not be in direct contact with known positive COVID-19 patients.
Those who want to learn more about volunteer opportunities can visit kcest.org/volunteer.