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Non-profit leaders say shelter demand far exceeds available beds, “We are faced with difficult decisions and risk loss of life.”

New bunk beds at Degage.
Degage Ministries
Clark Communications
New bunk beds at Degage.

Grand Rapids shelters are alerting the community to a homelessness crisis as the area heads into the winter season.

In an open letter to the community, leaders from AYA Youth Collective, Degage Ministries, Family Promise of West Michigan, Mel Trotter Ministries along with Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness outlined the demand for services.

The lack of bed capacity means an estimated 100 to 300 individuals will not have access to shelters as the weather turns colder. “We are faced with difficult decisions and risk loss of life.”

Data from Point in Time identifies Kent County’s unhoused population’s growth. In 2018, 723 people experienced homelessness. Fast forward to 2023, and the number increases to 1,239. Contributing factors include a shortage of affordable housing, the end of COVID relief funding and economic hardships.

More people in need and not enough beds compounded by a worker shortage and funding shortfalls led to the collective issuing the winter sheltering warning.

The open letter includes a portion in bold type that reads, “What’s more, the funding needed to provide additional staffing and a location for overflow shelter space is not presently available. Therefore, non-profits simply cannot meet the demand.”

The collective seeks short-term and long-term solutions collaborating with agencies, community and governmental leaders.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.