Well House doubles homeless housing with $257K from W.K. Kellogg Foundation


Well House’s motto: “The solution to homelessness is housing.” Photo via fb.com

Well House announced that it has received a $257,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that will allow it to purchase three additional houses to serve as permanent residences for the local homeless population. The grant will be distributed over two years.

The homes will be purchased in the Cass Street SE neighborhood, where Well House already owns and operates three permanent residence houses as well as an urban farm. The additional houses will allow the organization to move an additional 25 to 35 currently homeless people into safe and affordable housing each year.

“This grant changes things greatly, profoundly for Well House,” said Tami VandenBerg, executive director of the nonprofit. “We’re going to be able to fast forward all of our strategies and plans. Our dream of ending homelessness in Grand Rapids is a bit closer to coming true.”

VandenBerg took over leadership of Well House in January and has been rapidly implementing changes and improvements to the organization and its farming and community engagement programs.

“Well House specifically targets homeless individuals and families that have been denied other housing options for the homeless population,” Vandenberg said. “Goals for those moving into Well House include improved physical health, increased income, decreased isolation, decreased depression and improved nutrition.”

The farm provides produce for Well House residents and the neighborhood as well as mushrooms for local restaurants.

The Kellogg grant includes funding to expand Well House’s urban farm and provide employment to between 10 and 20 tenants each year, as well as incorporate a large number of community volunteers into its projects.

“The employment opportunities will be on the farm or working to rehabilitate the houses purchased with the grant,” VandenBerg said. “We will provide meaningful volunteer opportunities for community members to work side-by-side with tenants on the farm or rehabilitating the houses.”

Well House residents are not required to work on the farm or on housing renovations, but many choose to and have thus far been doing so on a volunteer basis. VandenBerg had previously stated that she hoped to be able to compensate residents for the work they provide.

Well House is expecting up to 100 volunteers will complete its orientation to introduce the organization’s Housing First model and the importance of food justice and inclusion.

Well House also has received grants this year from the Dyer Ives Foundation ($25,000) and the Sebastian Foundation ($10,000) for its urban farm project. Additionally, it received a low interest loan of $25,000 from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation to purchase a house at 632 Cass St. SE from the Kent County Land Bank.

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