Nonprofit collaboration addresses family homelessness

September 9, 2015
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Pathway Homes
The Pathway Home partnership involves Family Promise providing the family support talent and Mel Trotter meeting the space needs. Courtesy Pathway Home

Family homelessness is still a big problem in West Michigan and two local organizations have joined forces to do something about it.

For the first time ever, a special partnership between two Grand Rapids nonprofits — Mel Trotter Ministries and Family Promise — has been forged to created Pathway Home, a new way to increase shelter capacity and support for West Michigan’s homeless families.

“With over 2,500 homeless children in the Kent County school system last year, the rate of family homelessness is still a big problem,” said Cheryl Schuch, Family Promise’s executive director.

“The toxic stress of homelessness impacts children’s brains, their ability to focus and learn, and their overall health and well-being. The sooner we can get them into a safe place and a new home, the better they will be long-term.”

The Pathway Home partnership, which began as a pilot program last fall, involves Family Promise providing the family support talent and Mel Trotter meeting the space needs.

Before Pathway Home, Mel Trotter, located at 25 Commerce Ave. SW, downtown Grand Rapids, served only single men and women or single moms. Upon realizing there is a major need for space for homeless families, however, Mel Trotter repurposed 22 of its rooms to become more family-oriented. The change increased locally available emergency family shelter space by more than 200 percent, according to a release.

Family Promise, 906 South Division Ave., Grand Rapids, only had five rooms for families, but it had years of experience with case management in advocating for safe and stable permanent family housing. With Mel Trotter creating the extra space, four full-time Family Promise employees now work on-site at Mel Trotter. These employees will be focused on “keeping families together, mitigating the stressful effects of homelessness on children, meeting basic needs, and securing permanent housing,” according to the release.

Since the project began last year, 45 families have moved through Pathway Home and into permanent housing. Another 22 families also are currently transitioning into permanent homes.

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