Nonprofits

Partners launch program to prevent homelessness

June 19, 2017
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Family Promise of Grand Rapids
Family Promise of Grand Rapids is a nonprofit that helps homeless families out of its 10,000-square-foot space in southeast Grand Rapids. Courtesy Family Promise

A program is launching in the area to help families at risk of homelessness from finding themselves on the streets or in emergency shelters.

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation said last month it will give a $150,000 grant to the Community Diversion Program, which is being run by a consortium of nonprofits.

The program provides financial assistance to homeless families for things like food, transportation, utilities, rent, housing application and deposit fees.

Funds from this grant will also support the initial setup of this program and case management.

The goal is to eliminate stressors — seemingly simple expenses that can quickly add up and move a family from safe, secure housing to an emergency shelter — or to the streets.

The foundation said Grand Rapids’ booming housing market is creating an “unintended consequence” — a decrease in affordable housing options.

 The supply of affordable rental housing has decreased, while the demand continues to increase.

“Rental prices for our most affordable rental properties have sharply increased due to high demand and many properties have been converted to home ownership,” the organization said.

Laurie Craft, program director for the GRCF, said organizations first saw an increase in the number of families with children seeking shelter in 2015.

“By the spring of 2016, our community had exhausted all emergency overflow hotel shelter funds provided by the state,” she said. “The number of families experiencing a housing crisis continued to increase, causing higher demand for shelter and slower turnover at shelters due to the difficulty of finding affordable housing. By last summer, the waiting list for shelter reached 150 families.”

The consortium of nonprofits involved in the program are the Coalition to End Homelessness, Family Promise, Grand Rapids Urban League, Housing Assessment Program at the Salvation Army, Mel Trotter Ministries, Inner City Christian Federation, Kent Intermediate School District, North Kent Community Services, Degage and Department of Health and Human Services.

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