Camp Out at Calder: Local group stands in solidarity with the unhoused

Jan 11, 2021

 

Credit WGVU

  Around one dozen people took to Calder Plaza Monday morning to show their support for those facing homelessness in Grand Rapids. The protest, dubbed Camp Out at Calder, was organized by Justice For Black Lives (JFBL), an activist group in the city.

The outdoor demonstration, which ran from 10:30am to 5:30pm, was a reponse to the city of Grand Rapids removing more than 30 tents of people from Heartside Park in mid-December. 

"The city's just spreading the unhoused people out and putting them through yet another traumatic experience for no reason at all," Aly Bates, President of JFBL.

In December Grand Rapids city officials partnered with Mel Trotter Ministries and Guiding Light to open a new shelter, in response to those taking up refuge in Heartside Park. The facility, which resides in the Heartside neighborhood, is inclusive to individuals and families and has 100 beds. The city says the shelter is equipped to handle CDC guidelines during the pandemic. 

However, Bates said shelters aren't a long-term solution and is urging officials to look at holes in the system.

“These shelters aren’t necessarily a solution for many reasons. A lot of people bring everything they have to these shelters only to have them stolen. There’s not a secure place to keep them. Single fathers don’t have a choice to get into a shelter they have to give up their child in order to go into that shelter, where a single mother doesn’t have to do that. A bigger solution would obviously be more individual shelters where people can have their own space and not just having their own space but all-around care. Because what many of these shelters don’t do is help people get back on their feet,” Bates said.

When asked about the protest at Calder Plaza, the city of Grand Rapids told WGVU in a statement:

"The City of Grand Rapids has a proud history of supporting our residents in the exercise of their First Amendment rights. We share their concern for our unhoused neighbors as demonstrated by the considerable investments – both structurally and financially – we’ve made over the past year. We have allocated millions in homeless outreach and eviction prevention services to include $250k for undocumented persons who would not normally qualify for federal assistance. Despite those investments, we recognize that homelessness cannot be solved by government alone and we’re encouraged by the continued support and engagement we’re seeing from the community. It will take all of us, working together, to find a dignified and compassionate solution to this issue.”

  

 

Credit WGVU

  

Around one dozen people took to Calder Plaza Monday morning to show their support for those facing homelessness in Grand Rapids. The protest, dubbed Camp Out at Calder, was organized by Justice For Black Lives (JFBL), an activist group in the city.

The outdoor demonstration, which ran from 10:30am to 5:30pm, was a reponse to the city of Grand Rapids removing more than 30 tents of people from Heartside Park in mid-December. 

"The city's just spreading the unhoused people out and putting them through yet another traumatic experience for no reason at all," Aly Bates, President of JFBL.

In December Grand Rapids city officials partnered with Mel Trotter Ministries and Guiding Light to open a new shelter, in response to those taking up refuge in Heartside Park. The facility, which resides in the Heartside neighborhood, is inclusive to individuals and families and has 100 beds. The city says the shelter is equipped to handle CDC guidelines during the pandemic. 

However, Bates said shelters aren't a long-term solution and is urging officials to look at holes in the system.

“These shelters aren’t necessarily a solution for many reasons. A lot of people bring everything they have to these shelters only to have them stolen. There’s not a secure place to keep them. Single fathers don’t have a choice to get into a shelter they have to give up their child in order to go into that shelter, where a single mother doesn’t have to do that. A bigger solution would obviously be more individual shelters where people can have their own space and not just having their own space but all-around care. Because what many of these shelters don’t do is help people get back on their feet,” Bates said.

When asked about the protest at Calder Plaza, the city of Grand Rapids told WGVU in a statement:

"The City of Grand Rapids has a proud history of supporting our residents in the exercise of their First Amendment rights. We share their concern for our unhoused neighbors as demonstrated by the considerable investments – both structurally and financially – we’ve made over the past year. We have allocated millions in homeless outreach and eviction prevention services to include $250k for undocumented persons who would not normally qualify for federal assistance. Despite those investments, we recognize that homelessness cannot be solved by government alone and we’re encouraged by the continued support and engagement we’re seeing from the community. It will take all of us, working together, to find a dignified and compassionate solution to this issue.”