GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The early big snowfall is hard on everyone, but for the homeless, the situation can be dangerous.
Over the next few days, those who care for the homeless are taking extra steps to make sure the most vulnerable among us are safe.
“We’re already seeing greater numbers in the first 10 days (of November) (than) we’ve seen in any November (before),” Dennis Van Kampen, CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries, said.
Storm Team 8 says things will not be getting any better before Wednesday, with overnight windchills dipping into the single digits.
As a result, Mel Trotter has authorized a Code Blue, which relaxes some of the rules and restrictions on when people can come and go when weather could be dangerous for people outdoors.
“Maybe in the summer we don’t want at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning, but in this weather, we certainly allow that,” Van Kampen said.
They also give those who may have had behavioral problems in the past another chance during the cold weather.
“We have our warming center and our day center that’s open from 7 (a.m.) until 5 (p.m.) and then our shelter will be open from 5 (p.m.) until 7 (p.m.),” Van Kampen said.
As Van Kampen spoke Monday at the shelter at 225 Commerce Ave. SW, a woman pushing a baby in a stroller with snow gathered on it went into the shelter.
“What if I didn’t have a place to go? What if I was like that mom and had a baby in a stroller and we didn’t have a place to go?” Van Kampen said.
This is the earliest Mel Trotter has issued a Code Blue. They are seeing about 100 more people at the shelter than they have in the past two years, which is more than 400 people total.
“We continue to see an increase in the number of families that are experiencing homelessness, so we’re seeing more men, women and children than we’ve ever seen before,” Van Kampen said.
Pine Rest’s StreatReach, The Grand Rapid Police Department and The Grand Rapids Fire Department also get the word out to the homeless about the warmth available to them.
When temperatures become deadly, GRPD will go out and aggressively recruit homeless people, to move them off the streets, but while those conditions are not here yet, police will still respond to 911 calls about people in the elements.
“For whatever reason, they may think they just want to tough it out in the weather, so we’re going to go out and be looking for people and inviting them in to have a meal, a warm bed, a shower and hopefully a first step toward leaving homelessness,” Van Kampen said. “Our outreach is starting tomorrow morning where we have teams that are going out and we’re going to different areas of the city and we’re looking for people that for whatever reason don’t know about us or some of our partners where they can go in.”
Van Kampen says he hopes everyone is letting those that are homeless and out in the cold know about Mel Trotter.
He says that while some homeless are suffering from mental conditions that make them react negatively to others, people should do the compassionate thing when it is safe for them to do so.
“Most of the people are not going to do anything, except be thankful that you approach them, but again, if you don’t feel safe, that’s why we have 911 and they can help them,” Van Kampen said.
Mel Trotter needs warm clothes, hats, gloves, boots especially in sizes 11 and above and coats in sizes large and above.
You can find information about how to give help to the shelter on Mel Trotter’s website.