GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Wednesday afternoon, staff and volunteers with Mel Trotter Ministries served meals for the mission’s annual holiday dinner.

It is a chance for families to get out of the cold, share a warm meal and some holiday spirit.

The bigger challenge for the homeless starts Thursday, when the snow begins to fall and the wind picks up.  

“Pretty much stay indoors. Probably going to go to families for holidays,” said Shontae Wilson,  as he enjoys Wednesday’s meal with family and friends.

Others won’t be as fortunate.

By Thursday, the place where the meals were served will become a makeshift dorm in anticipation of an influx of people trying to escape the cold.

Mel Trotter President and CEO Dennis Van Kampen has been watching the weather reports and anticipating the biggest weather impact since the Polar Vortex of 2019.

“Even if it’s partially that bad, we’re going to see a lot of people who are going to need help,” said Van Kampen.

“We can take in, including overflow beds, about 620 people, which we’ve never hit that number before, except for the Polar Vortex. And we anticipate we’re easily going to hit that number.”

Every space inside the mission on Commerce Avenue will be used for additional beds. 

“We will be putting cots down in our cafeteria, even in our atrium to make sure we can take as many people that want to come in as possible,” said Van Kampen. 

Other services are responding to the need as well.

The city’s Homeless Outreach Team will be active.

City fire crews are paying close attention when going to and from emergency calls for vulnerable people still on the streets. Members of Mel Trotter’s outreach team will be spending their holidays away from loved ones.

“They will be out when most of us are at home, they’re going to be out, going to the encampments, going to the river, going to the business doorways,” said Van Kampen. “Wherever we need to, to try and make sure people are safe.“