GR agency wants more space for immigrant kids

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Bethany Christian Services is working to expand temporary housing for refugee children.

The organization is in the process of buying two buildings off of Burton Street SE east of Eastern Avenue. 660 and 670 Burton are the site of the former Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology, founded by gospel recording artist Marvin Sapp.

Bethany says the number of children coming from Central American countries continues to rise. It plans to use the old school buildings as a safe place to temporarily take care of  them.

“In our current facility, we don’t have the capacity,” Dana Anderson, the associate director Bethany Christian Services’ Grand Rapids branch, said.

She said the agency can currently house up to 18 children. Adding the Burton Street facility would increase that number to 36.

“Bethany’s traditional program is for unaccompanied children that are crossing the southwest border. They’re crossing because they’re coming from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and just the humanitarian issues are so immense and so scary and so great that children are literally running for their lives,” Anderson said.

The Burton Street buildings will allow Bethany to help more of those children. Housing boys between the ages of 14 through 18, the facility will contain dormitories, classrooms and a place for medical care.

Anderson said 97 percent of the immigrant children have family members who are already in the United States and that the goal is to reunite them.

“Our programs are all a transitional period,” Anderson explained. “Kids stay in our care only about 47 days is the average right now.”

The home will also serve foster children.

The purchase is not yet a done deal, but if all goes well, the buildings should be ready for children by fall of next year.

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