State working to find help for homeless families

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — State health and human service leaders said Grand Rapids “must come together” to address “significant” issues surrounding housing access for very low-income families. 

“MDHHS is concerned about the number of homeless families in greater Grand Rapids and the lack of family shelter and permanent housing resources to help these families find stable, safe places to live,” wrote a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in an email Friday to 24 Hour News 8. 

“MDHHS will continue to be a partner with the community through (the state’s) Emergency Shelter Program, but the need is great and cannot be covered by one funder,” wrote Bob Wheaton. 

MDHHS was responding to questions from 24 Hour News 8 regarding the recent depletion of an emergency hotel fund administered by the Salvation Army in West Michigan. 

When the dollars were gone, around 40 homeless families had to leave Grand Rapids hotels. The families said caseworkers blamed “unforeseen circumstances.” 

Wheaton said MDHHS first became aware the hotel fund was running out Oct. 16. 

The $65,000, which became available Oct. 1, was the amount requested by the Salvation Army in West Michigan for Fiscal year 2019, according to Wheaton. 

“We have been told that it has all been spent,” wrote Wheaton. 

The average hotel cost for families per night is $75, according to the Heart of West Michigan United Way. 

At that rate, the $65,000 covered three weeks of hotel nights for forty or so families, which matches what the Salvation Army told 24 Hour News 8 last week. 

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