Shelter workers urge homeless in from dangerous cold

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Staff and volunteers at Mel Trotter Ministries in Grand Rapids went out into the cold Tuesday night to try to find those who may be attempting to survive outside in subfreezing weather.

Forecasters call for a high temperature of 0 degrees Wednesday with wind chills expected in the negative double digits.

Mel Trotter CEO Dennis Van Kampen, Vice President of Ministry and Outreach Leonard McElveen and two volunteers comprised a group that went out hoping to save lives.

“That’s too cold for anybody to be on the streets,” McElveen told 24 Hour News 8.

The group checked some of the known areas where people who are homeless often sleep. Stops included under highway overpasses, snowy railroad tracks and business entryways along South Division Ave. in the Heartside community.

In some of the places, they found no one.

“If they weren’t there, the good news is hopefully they’re somewhere warm,” Van Kampen said after one such stop. “In a lot of ways it’s good that we didn’t find anybody.”

Some of the homeless people the group approached said they planned to make their way to a shelter, though others said they would sleep outside.

Kevin Price and his girlfriend declined Van Kampen’s offer for a place to stay.

“Nothing you guys say will make us go inside,” Price told 24 Hour News 8 as the couple walked away. “Nothing.”

Price and his girlfriend said they didn’t like the environment at the shelter because of fights and unruly people. The couple accepted blankets from the group and continued on their way holding hands.

“(We) give them blankets and say a prayer for them,” Van Kampen said as the couple walked away. “It’s all we can do.”

Mel Trotter Ministries leaders said they expected to house some 500 people Tuesday night.

Keith Barnes, his girlfriend and her daughter are among them.

“If we didn’t have this building here to come to, we would be sleeping in the cold right now,” Barnes said. “The second I seen that it was going to be a week like this, I knew for sure I had to do anything in my power … to get this to work out.”

It’s stories like that McElveen said makes the effort worth it.

“You actually got an opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life,” he said.

Mel Trotter Ministries invites the public to help in its efforts by donating to the organization.

Warming shelters have been set up in cities across West Michigan.

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