Overflow shelter helping Mel Trotter Ministries handle need amid frigid temps

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Last week’s snowfall prompted more of those who are homeless in Grand Rapids to turn to Mel Trotter Ministries, seeking warmth and shelter.

As the state continues to see cold temperatures, Mel Trotter President and CEO Dennis Van Kampen said the shelter won’t turn anyone away.

“At Mel Trotter, we have the capacity to take anyone who wants to come in,” he said. “When we get terrible weather like this, there have been times where we have to set up beds and mattresses in hallways and conferences to ensure anyone who wants to get out of the cold can.”

Mel Trotter has two shelter locations: the main shelter on Commerce Avenue SW and another on Division Avenue, which is an overflow shelter. About 400 people sought shelter on Friday night and that both shelters were near capacity most of last week.

“Whenever we get heavy snow and really cold temperatures like we’ve had, we always see an increase in need,” Van Kampen said. “We also saw a significant increase for day services, so people who are trying to get warm.”

Outreach teams headed out to look for people in the cold. They found many men and women who didn’t have blankets, food or water.

That’s why Van Kampen is glad the nonprofit decided to open the overflow shelter, which has a 75-bed capacity.

“Sadly, it’s what we predicted: that when we got into the winter months, there wasn’t going to be enough room just at the locations that existed, so we needed this overflow shelter,” he said. “To be honest, when I look at the numbers of people that we are serving, there would be a lot of people with no place to go.”

Due to fire regulations, the overflow shelter can’t exceed its capacity, though more people have been allowed to come in because the need is so great.

Volunteers and staff feel a deep responsibility to care for homeless and will continue to find space for everyone in need at its Commerce location.

The state is expected to see colder temperatures this week and Van Kampen said the nonprofit is appreciative of any help the community gives.

If you are looking for ways to help, here are some suggestions:

If you see some who appears to be homeless, check on them and make sure they are OK. If you are uncomfortable, you can reach out to the Grand Rapids Police Department nonemergency line at 616.456.3400 to ask for a wellness check or you can call the shelter at 616.454.8249 to let them know where someone is.

Mel Trotter could use more volunteers. You can become part of the outreach team or you can sign up to serve or prepare meals. Your church or civic group could make bags to pass out to the homeless. As more people seek services, expenses also increase. Mel Trotter would appreciate any monetary donations. You can visit the shelter’s website for more information.

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