Grand Rapids youth homeless shelter expected to open 2018

By Megan Webster | 11/15/17 10:03pm

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GVL / Courtesy - mlive.com

According to MLive.com, Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas of Kent County have the state of Michigan’s third highest number of homeless individuals with an approximate total of 800 people. In an effort to bring aid to this problem, Covenant House Michigan launched its $4.5 million campaign Wednesday, Nov. 8, for a homeless shelter for young adults, a first for the area. 

Markeith Large, principal at Covenant House Academy in Grand Rapids, explained the importance of this shelter responding to a growing homeless problem among the city's youth.

“We have a tremendous homeless problem in the city of Grand Rapids with the homeless situation in troubled youth teens,” Large said. “This project was designed specifically for homeless teens.”

The Covenant House Academy in Grand Rapids is a charter school sponsored by Grand Valley State University. GVSU charters more than 70 schools and has served more than 33,000 students, according to the Charter Schools Office website.

The homeless shelter, which has already broken ground and is expected to open sometime in the summer of 2018, will be open to homeless individuals between the ages of 18 and 24.

“There’s that transition piece that occurs at 18 years old, of which many kids have to leave their own home for a variety of reasons,” said Pam Spaeth, site administrator and director of development of Covenant House Michigan. “They take it upon themselves to leave home prematurely, they age out of foster care, there’s a variety of reasons that age 18 is a real critical transition time.”

The homeless shelter has been in the making for the past four years and will be located off of South Division Avenue. More specifically, it will be structured as a 90-day emergency shelter.

While at the shelter, youth will be provided additional help from the staff to work on stabilization in health, education, employment and eventually housing. The 90-day structure is a model, not a strict mold, Spaeth said. An attendee can leave before the 90 days or stay after that timeline, all depending on what the youth needs.

“That idea of 90 days is what is considered the optimum time period to be able to make those transitions and (get) ready for the transition into permanent housing,” Spaeth said. “It will vary from person to person. The model is 90 days; however, if we have individuals who are not quite ready, we certainly don’t ask them to leave. We work with them and walk alongside them until they’re ready.” 

Covenant House Michigan originally began in Detroit and has specialized in homeless youth since 1997. Since then, the organization has helped more than 60,000 youth get back on their feet. For this project, Covenant House Michigan is pairing up with different organizations in Grand Rapids to provide homeless youth with safe and stable housing after the program is completed at the new homeless shelter. These organizations include, but are not limited to, HQ GR, 3:11 Youth Housing, Inner City Christian Federation and Family Promise.

“These organizations and others have walked alongside us so that we can all work together rather than working against one another, work together to truly make a difference in the lives of these young people,” Spaeth said.

For more information on the progress of the youth homeless shelter or Covenant House Michigan, visit www.covenanthousemi.org/. For specific questions about the project that is currently underway, contact Pam Spaeth at pspaeth@covenanthouse.org

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