GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A major expansion plans to tackle homelessness in Grand Rapids in a bigger way.
Degage Ministries plans to expand its S. Division Avenue building into the property directly behind it, which is located on Sheldon Boulevard. The well-known organization will nearly double in size.
The changes include bumping the capacity of the overnight women’s shelter from 40 to 74. Women sleeping on mats will upgrade to bunk beds.
“Moving to the expansion, we’ll be able to have women with children. Currently we don’t,” Marge Palmerlee, the executive director told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.
Palmerlee told 24 Hour News 8 that every night, Degage has to turn women away because there’s simply not enough room.
The project, scheduled to start in the spring, also includes increasing the capacity of the dining room and moving its location. The entrance will no longer be on S. Division Avenue; instead, it will be on Sheldon.
“That will help with some of that loitering and congestion and foot traffic on South Division, and allow our patrons to have space on our own property where we will have benches and green space,” Palmerlee said.
Lucciano Johnson has gotten help from the ministry’s programs.
“It’s a lot of homeless people down here and it’s cold outside,” she said.
She credits Degage with getting her out the cold. Now she hopes to earn the keys to her own place.
“Quite a few ladies found housing and I’ll be coming up next,” Johnson told 24 Hour News 8.
She fell on hard times after moving back to Michigan in 2017 after her father was diagnosed with cancer. Johnson said matters grew worse when both of her parents died in 2018.
From housing help to helpful resources, Johnson said Degage provides her priceless assistance.
Palmerlee said she hopes the three-story expansion means the organization can help more people like Johnson.
“I had a woman call recently begging me to allow her and her children to stay in our stairwell and as a community we can do better,” Palmerlee said. “So we’re excited to be stepping into that need and saying, ‘How can we help?'”
There won’t just be more beds. The changes include added lockers, showers and resources in the Life Enrichment Center, which provides services that help people track down school records, get a state ID and land jobs.
Degage has to demolish the building currently sitting on the Sheldon property before construction can begin because of its unstable condition.
Palmerlee said this is the largest expansion project Degage has ever done.