HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — As the threat of the some of the coldest temperatures in a long time bear down on West Michigan, attention turns to those least able to keep warm: the homeless.
Homelessness isn’t just an urban problem, it hits even in places like Holland where the lakeshore community is bracing for the deep freeze to come.
The homeless in Holland are not on every major intersection as you see in many larger cities.
Racheal Neal, development director for the Holland Rescue Mission, says they are there.
“You’ll find them in tent encampments in the woods, sometimes staying under the overpass, sleeping in their cars, which is just really dangerous this time of year,” Neal Told 24 Hour News 8.
The Holland Rescue Mission is not unlike the shelters in the larger urban areas of Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Kalamazoo in that they want to provide homeless people with more than just a place to stay.
“We really want to help people get a job, save their money and move out, but obviously when the cold temperatures are as bad as they are right now, we’re more open to allowing people to come who don’t plan to stay with us,” Neal said. “One woman that came in at 3:30 in the morning because she just couldn’t bear the cold any more, she was attempting to sleep in her car.”
People experiencing homelessness can’t be forced to stay at the mission and if they are disruptive they may have to stay at the Holland Police Department.
“Our hope would be that they don’t just come in and get warm and then go back out and stay in the cold because it can be very dangerous and they fall asleep, we’ve hear of some terrible things happening,” said Neal.
For shelter resident Ken, who is trying to get his life together, the Holland program has made a difference.
“They have fed me, they have clothed me, they’ve given me a bed and it’s a comfortable bed and certainly at this time of year when it’s extremely cold, just to have a warm place,” Ken said.
He said for many, the shelter is the difference between life and death.
“I love what the Lord Jesus Christ said, he said ‘feed, clothe and shelter the homeless’ and that’s being accomplished right here,” said Ken.
Many at the shelter lack appropriate cold weather gear and are often walking or riding a bike to get to jobs and health care.
The Holland shelter is running critically low on winter coats of all sizes and especially gloves.
“We need not just thin cotton gloves but warm, insulated gloves, boots, a lot of our guys if they stay at the shelter they’re walking to work of taking the bus to work,” Nela said.
There are drop-off points all over Holland for those items which can be found in this link.
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