The Rapidian

Community updates: Friday, June 26

Free outdoor fitness classes returning to Grand Rapids; 3:11 Youth Housing and HQ merge to help more youth facing homelessness; Gov. Whitmer extends eviction freeze, creates eviction diversion program; and Amtrak restoring Grand Rapids to Chicago service.
Grand Rapids' Lookout Park will host free sunset yoga classes every Tuesday at 7pm, July 7 through Aug. 25.

Grand Rapids' Lookout Park will host free sunset yoga classes every Tuesday at 7pm, July 7 through Aug. 25. /City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation

Free outdoor fitness classes returning to Grand Rapids on July 6

Grand Rapidians getting in shape this summer can still count on free outdoor fitness classes for support.

The City of Grand RapidsParks and Recreation Department announced on Thursday it will be kicking off its fifth summer of outdoor dance, cardio, and yoga classes on July 6. Classes will take place in parks and public spaces across the city.

To ensure public health and safety, COVID-19 mitigation measures will be maintained, including six-feet distancing, capacity limits, and the encouraging of face coverings.

The free outdoor fitness series is one of our most popular summer offerings,” said John Judnich, the City of Grand Rapids’ Recreation Supervisor. “With the added health and safety measures, we can still support the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of community members at a time when it is more important than ever.”

Running through August 29, fitness class locations range from Rosa Parks Circle to Martin Luther King Park, Garfield Park, Indian Trails Golf Course, and more. The types of classes range from youth dance to zumba, sunrise yoga, kickboxing, and several others.

Adult classes will be for ages 16 and older. Youth dance classes are recommended for residents at least 10 years old. Registration isn't required for any of the classes.

The full list of the outdoor classes is available on the Parks and Recreation Department’s Facebook Events page.


3:11 Youth Housing and HQ merge to help more youth facing homelessness

Two local nonprofits are merging to provide a broader circle of support for homeless youth: 3:11 Youth Housing and HQ Runaway & Homeless Youth Drop-In Center.

The organizations shared a purpose of helping youth facing homelessness since their openings in the last decade. Announced in a Monday statement, the new entity will provide “cohesive support and stability in the face of such unprecedented times,” such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Planned through the merger are streamlined services for in-need youth that were provided by 3:11 and HQ, such as providing housing for those aged 18 to 24, and creating a safe and affirmative space for those aged 14 to 24 to rest, build relationships, and connect to vital resources while navigating instability and homelessness.

Also planned are increased reach and impact and new housing options and innovations in youth resources.

Housing insecurity is complex, and 3:11 and HQ have partnered for years to address its many dimensions,” said ‚ÄčLauren VanKeulen, founding Co-Executive Director of 3:11. “As a unified organization, we can create a more connective, cohesive experience for youth on their journey toward housing and stability.”

VanKeulen will lead the new organization as its CEO with a leadership team that combines staff and board members from both founding organizations. Shandra Steininger, Co-Founder and Executive Director of HQ, will complete her service to the organization on June 30, in order to relocate to Phoenix, Arizona, to be nearer to family.

More than 80 youth per night experience homelessness in Kent County each year, according to the community Point in Time Count, and we know this is grossly under representative of the actual need,” 3:11 and HQ said in their joint statement.

As a unified organization, we will have the resources, diversity, and strength to play a more significant role in breaking the cycle of homelessness.”

A new name for the organization has yet to be announced. More details about the merger are available on 3:11 and HQ’s websites.


Gov. Whitmer extends eviction freeze through July 15, creates eviction diversion program starting July 16

With the danger of homelessness continuing to grow across Michigan in response to COVID-related financial hurdles, Gov. Whitmer signed an executive order on Friday further addressing the issue.

Whitmer’s new order extended the suspension of evictions through July 15 and created a rental assistance program that will be available July 16.

Under the Eviction Diversion Program, $50 million in rental assistance will be made available to landlords in exchange for allowing tenants to remain in their homes, forgiving late fees, and forgiving up to 10% of tenants’ amount due. Tenants whose back rent isn't completely covered by the program will be entered into manageable payment plans.

“No Michigander should have to worry about losing their home during a global health pandemic and, at the same time, landlords and management companies need rent from their tenants to sustain their businesses,” said Whitmer.

“This innovative new program will save lives, save money, and save businesses by keeping families in their homes and providing immediate financial relief to landlords for back rent they’re due.”

The program was created following the passage of Senate Bill 690, which passed unanimously in both the Michigan House and Senate on June 17. The legislation appropriated $60 million in COVID-19 relief funding to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity for creation of the program.

More details about Whitmer’s latest order are available on her website’s Executive Orders page.


Amtrak restoring Grand Rapids to Chicago service on June 29

Grand Rapids to Chicago Amtrak service will resume on June 29 and 30, Amtrak announced Wednesday. The route has been suspended since March due to the pandemic.

The Pere Marquette service will head eastbound only to Grand Rapids on June 29, with travel in both directions starting June 30.

To ensure passenger safety, Amtrak will limit bookings to less than half of capacity to maintain physical distancing onboard trains.

“We are dedicated to doing everything possible to return service safely,” Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable as they navigate this new normal.”

Additional safety measure include regular disinfecting of stations and trains, requiring all employees and customers to wear face coverings, accepting only cashless payments in stations and on trains, and signage around stations promoting physical distancing.

Updates on Amtrak service adjustments are available on its website’s Service Alerts page.


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