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Additional Resources Should be Considered to Aid the Houseless as Winter Approaches

As winter approaches and hospitals are over capacity, Grand Rapids needs to consider additional efforts to support the houseless population.

In early November, the city of Grand Rapids approved an agreement with Mel Trotter Ministries to expand storage and sheltering options for the city. The resolution’s main goal is to expand options for those experiencing issues with permanent housing and residency. Scheduled to open on Dec. 1, the resolution passed granted the organization $330,000 to expand their efforts to aid houseless peoples

The city of Grand Rapids has been struggling with a substantial houseless population in recent years. In March of this year, an MLive article details that Kent County has seen an 8% increase in the houseless population year after year. While the increase isn’t drastically higher than years’ past, permanent housing has been a larger issue in Grand Rapids.

As the local climate transitions toward winter, the houseless population faces greater risks than other times of the year, which draws them to other forms of shelter. While Mel Trotter Ministries’ newest addition is a welcome change, it might not be enough to make sure that every resident of Grand Rapids remains safe throughout this time of year. As colder weather becomes increasingly more common, so does the risk for illness and injury among the nation’s houseless population.

One area outside of shelters that the houseless gravitate towards are hospitals. However, the state of Michigan currently boasts one of the nation’s highest counts for daily cases of Covid-19. With many hospitals well over 100% capacity, Emergency Departments across Grand Rapids, and the state as a whole, don’t have the means to take care for this drastic increase in patients.

In addition, the Midwest region boasts one of the highest proportions of Emergency Department visits by houseless peoples each year. With the current state of Covid-19 across the country, and specifically the state of Michigan, the potential for increased spread of Covid-19 is something that will not only negatively impact the houseless populations, but all communities throughout Grand Rapids and the state as a whole.

NPR’s live-tracking of Covid-19 currently shows the state of Michigan with 10/014 new cases per day. An average of 100 cases per 100k people, with unchecked community spread. As new information is released regarding the Omicron variant, there could be additional dangers that negatively impact every aspect of Grand Rapids’ various communities.

With Covid-19’s impact on healthcare professionals, their efforts will become spread far too thin to give the car needed for every patient that enters any hospital. For the houseless population of Grand Rapids, this means they face a new challenge as winter weather returns to the city. With both shelters and healthcare facilities at capacity or higher, those at risk will be forced to turn elsewhere.

As the state’s second-largest city, Grand Rapids should explore additional efforts to support the houseless, with both short-term and long-term options. As the weather only gets worse, coordinated efforts between city government and local organizations are a must so that the houseless population is presented with safe options. The new addition to Mel Trotter Ministries is a great start, but more change is needed to make sure that all residents of Grand Rapids stay safe as we enter an unknown period in community safety.

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