GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Sustained cold weather throughout West Michigan has prompted local shelters and public service agencies to reopen warming shelters and organize clothing drives.
Vernon Coakley, assistant chief of operations and community outreach for the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, helped organize the KDPS’ Pastors on Patrol coat drive.
Now in its second year, Coakley believes the drive helps some of the community’s most at need individuals.
“We began to see a need growing, young people going to school without warm coats and gloves and hats, families too,” Coakley said.
Every Saturday through November, KDPS officers will be on hand at 150 E Crosstown Parkway to take new or gently used coats and unopened toys to give to those in need.
“We take it all because we know homelessness comes in all kinds of different sizes and shapes,” Coakley said. “No coat is too big, no coat is too small. If it’s reusable, let us have it. Let us give it to someone who needs a coat.”
The gathered coats will all be dry-cleaned by Paris Cleaners before they are eventually given away Dec. 5 at the Jennings Development Interplex on 1515 N Edwards Street.
“This is an amazing partnership. We make sure that these items are clean for the people who need them,” Coakley said. “We at Kalamazoo (Department of) Public Safety continue to, again, bridge that gap, assist this community, assist this population of homeless people to get them where they need to go.”
“Code Blue is something that we go into every year when the weather turns cold. 32 degrees in the evening hours for a consistent amount of time,” said Adrienne Goodstal, vice president of programs for Mel Trotter. “This week alone, we had over 400 individuals that were accessing our shelter to stay warm.”
Goodstal says many of Grand Rapid’s homeless live in encampments during the warmer months and must now rely on Mel Trotter’s services, like the Code Blue Drive, and warming shelters throughout the city.
“Our warming shelters have reopened from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and we have begun collecting various new cold-weather items,” Goodstal said. “Anything that you can imagine that anybody would need when they are out in these elements to keep warm.”
“We are shifting into the cold weather and so our numbers are already on the rise and so we anticipate that we’re going to be at a full house pretty much from here until the end of winter and cold weather months,” Goodstal said. “We just ask that Grand Rapidians keep us in mind as you are thinking of year-end giving.”
New coats, gloves, scarves and other winter accessories can be dropped off in the blue buckets at Mel Trotter’s various downtown locations. Financial contributions can be made on their website or in person.