GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly three months ago, Grand Rapids implemented new rules proposed by downtown business owners to address issues connected to the city’s homeless community. On Tuesday, city officials provided an update on the impact of those regulations so far.
In August, changes to Grand Rapids’ nuisance and disorderly conduct ordinances took effect. Some business owners said the changes were needed for safety and the success of downtown, but opponents claimed they would criminalize homelessness.
One of the updates prohibits accosting a person at places like ATMs and outdoor dining areas. Months later, city officials say no one has been charged in connection to the new rule.
“With many misdemeanor-type ordinances, police seek to educate and get to compliance in the moment,” Grand Rapids Deputy City Manager Kate Berens told city commissioners Tuesday. “It does give us a tool to talk to people about expectations, and clarifying what is and is not permitted.”
Another ordinance limits the amount of personal property that can be left in public spaces like parks or right of ways. As public works crews clean up these areas, the city is working with Mel Trotter Ministries on storage options and said only two people have claimed belongings that were removed.
“What does that tell us? Is it inaccessible? Or is it that we’re generally falling in the right place in terms of what’s rubbish and what people know that they need to carry with them,” Berens said.
Grand Rapids will also soon have signage in public areas, sharing information on the ordinances.
“In the locations where we have our parks rules, for example, our Mobile GR stairwells, likely you’ll start to see some permanent signage that educates folks about these personal property rules,” Berens said.
In June, the city approved $500,000 to expand a targeted housing outreach program run by Community Rebuilders. Starting with Monroe Center in downtown, the nonprofit has it has seen success.
“We have successfully enrolled 14 individuals across 12 households, marking the first step in their journey towards permanent housing,” Community Rebuilders executive director Vera Beech said.
Beech added that during the first quarter of the partnership with the city, 12 people who were once chronically homeless now have permanent housing.
“This is not just about numbers, it is about the lives being uplifted and their potential being released,” Beech said.
Josh Lunger, vice president of government affairs with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, said the group has received lots of positive feedback from business owners about the ordinance updates.