GR homeless shelters see spike in single women

by: Barton Deiters

Posted: Oct 14, 2019 / 05:09 PM EDT Updated: Oct 14, 2019 / 06:31 PM EDT

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mel Trotter Ministries sees hundreds of people come to its Heartside Neighborhood shelter every day, but an uptick in single women has forced them to set up mats on a basketball court.

“It’s a gym, but we have about 40 mats and that is to meet the increased need,” said Adrienne Goodstal, vice president of programs at Mel Trotter.

Traditionally, staff at Mel Trotter have allocated space for 25 single women at their building on 225 Commerce Ave. SW. But lately that’s changed.

“Altogether on any given night, we could have over 60 women that are staying here,” Goodstal said.

She says the single women coming to the shelter range from 18 years to older than 70 years old.

“Single women are women who are not with children — not to say that they don’t have children — but they are not accompanied by their children,” Goodstal explained.

“We know a lot of the women that access our shelter are fleeing from domestic violence or have been in a domestic violence situation,” she added.

The increase is not isolated to Mel Trotter.

“We work closely with Degage Ministries and I was just in a conversation with their counterpart of mine, and they also have seen an increase in single ladies,” Goodstal said.


The increase in homelessness among single women doesn’t surprise others who work with the homeless population.

“The typical makeup of families who come through the emergency shelter are single women, typically younger single women population,” said Kate O’Keefe, spokesperson for Family Promise of Grand Rapids. “For us here at Family Promise, the majority, well over 80 percent of the families who enter shelters, are single moms with kids.”

Family Promise works with families of all types to find them a home and keep them in it.

KConnect is a coalition working to compile data and coordinate efforts of public and private agencies working to combat homelessness and economic inequality.

Their data shows more than 10,500 people in 2018 were in Kent County’s homeless system, meaning 1 in 62 people were homeless. Of those, 33% were children, meaning 1 in 46 children were homeless.

Homelessness has its roots in the lack of affordable housing.

“We know that mental health and substance abuse is a part of that homeless population, but there is a much larger population of families who simple cannot make the math work,” O’Keefe said.


Mel Trotter is working with Next Steps, a construction company that provides construction jobs to formally incarcerated people to build bunk beds to replace the mats on their floors.

“Not only to meet the growing need, but to also provide a more dignified sleeping space for the ladies that are coming here,” added Goodstal. “We strive to provide dignified sleeping space and dignity across the board.”

The beds would mean a better life for those already struggling.

“We’ve got ladies who have some limited mobility and some physical challenges, and so obviously getting up and down on the mat is not the easiest for them,” Goodstal explained.

Mel Trotter hopes to raise $25,000 by Oct. 31 to pay for the beds. Donations can be made on the Mel Trotter’s website.


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