GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Dégagé Ministries in Grand Rapids is more than doubling its nightly bed capacity with a new expansion into what used to be the nonprofit’s administrative offices.
Fifty-four additional beds will soon be available to women staying at the shelter.
Dégagé expanded two years ago but because of the growing need it decided the offices needed to be moved, according to Executive Director Thelma Ensink.
“When this is all done, this is 96 permanent beds, which should be close to meeting our shelter needs, and then we have some other spaces in the building that helps with overflow, as well,” Ensink said. “Today, we can see up to 100 women in emergency shelter at night.”
Rooms that once housed computers and desks will soon be full of beds.
“The administration floor will allow for smaller spaces that can accommodate four to six people and the beds are specially designed to include features like additional storage,” Ensink said. “We’re able to pair people with roommates that might be a great fit for them. People with some additional physical needs can have a separate space. So there’s a real added advantage compared to just a large congregate space.”
The need for housing at the women’s shelter had also grown substantially compared with just five years ago. In February 2018, an estimated 700 people were experiencing homelessness in the area.
“This past February, we found out there’s about 1,200 individuals,” Ensink said.
Ensink said several factors are contributing to the increase in demand for services and the nonprofit is seeing more older people and people in the shelter for the very first time.
“It’s not people with your stereotypical barriers of maybe substance use or even mental health disorder. It’s a lot of people who have worked their whole life. They make a great income but it’s not enough for housing in Grand Rapids,” Ensink said.
The shelter expansion would not be possible without the support from organizations who partnered on the project.
“We’re so grateful to Trinity Health that made a space available for us to be able to move our staff offsite and then we were so excited when Bethany Christian Services came forward and said, ‘Hey, we have this Youth Build Program,’” Ensink said.
The expansion floor is expected to be finished in the next four weeks. Help from the community has kept the cost of the project low.
“We’re able to do it for about $25,000, which is amazing — so donated labor, some donated materials and a lot of our own staff doing some work alongside of the youth,” Ensink said.