GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids is hosting two public meetings next week to talk about programs that address homelessness and how they contribute to a pleasant downtown.
Hosted by the Grand Rapids Public Safety Committee and the National Civil League, the goal of the meetings is to hear from people about their concerns, offer up information and talk about how current programs can fix problems.
“The sessions really are … in followup to some conversations that happened with our City Commission in December,” Deputy City Manager Kate Berens explained to News 8 Thursday. “So at our December meetings, there was a request received from some stakeholders advocating for additional ordinances to address some misdemeanor behavior particularly in and around downtown.”
At the time, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce said that included public defecation, harassment, assault and other problems.
The commission didn’t adopt the proposed ordinances, which would have cracked down on loitering and aggressive panhandling, but it did send the matter to the Public Safety Committee to see whether more should be done.
Berens said that since then, the city has been providing information about current programs to the committee. Now, it will get input from the public before wrapping up its findings.
“We’ve talked (with the committee) about not only the city’s existing ordinances, how we enforce those, who you call to enforce those, but (also) other city services (like) cleaning up right of way, getting property that’s been abandoned in the right of way picked up…” Berens said.
There are also a number of nonprofits that work with the city and county to address homelessness.
“We’ve talked about those initiatives and what’s happening to improve those systems to make sure fewer people are falling through the cracks,” Berens said. “And now this last bit of public engagement, we’ll be asking people what they’ve observed, what their experiences are and whether all of those initiatives will address any negative experiences or whether we need to fill gaps with additional initiatives.”
Berens said the city and its partners have been working to combat problems linked to homelessness for a while, but it’s become apparent that they have not done enough to let the public know what’s going on.
“So part of this effort is to provide education and transparency and accountability, as well,” she said.
The meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to at the Goei Center at 818 Butterworth St. SW and 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday at the main branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library at 111 Library St. If you can’t make it, you can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.