Nonprofit prepares to open transitional housing inside renovated Wyoming church

Media Mention

By Kate Klemp December 4, 2023

By Rachel Watson

Originally Published in Crain’s Grand Rapids

A nonprofit that serves families experiencing homelessness is set to open a shelter inside a Wyoming church.

Family Promise of West Michigan expects to wrap up construction this week on a 12-unit temporary housing facility called Wyoming Park Family Shelter inside Wyoming Park United Methodist Church, at 2244 Porter St. SW.

The organization will host a ribbon cutting at the facility on Tuesday.

“Family Promise of West Michigan is delighted to finally have a permanent presence in Wyoming,” said Jim Davis, the nonprofit’s vice president of business development, who has led this project since 2021. “We’ve been working there for years, helping families through rapid rehousing, so this is just another step in our relationship to that municipality.”

The shelter will be ready for occupancy by Jan. 4, Davis said.

“We anticipate having all 12 rooms filled by the end of January,” said Lisa Valk, COO of Family Promise of West Michigan.

The units will be dormitory-style, with one room per family and a shared kitchen, bathroom and living space. Davis said the shelter will be “finished but not furnished” at the ribbon cutting.

“We’ll be able to show everyone the space and help them dream with us about how it will function and flourish with families in it,” he said. “But we’ll still be reaching out to our community to help us with those last items like appliances, beds, lamps, bedding, things of that nature.”

The organization paid $650,000 in May for the church and a parsonage it plans to convert to a permanent family home. Construction began on the shelter project in April.

The city of Wyoming facilitated the project by amending its zoning code in December 2022 to allow for supportive housing, then rezoned the property from R-2 (single-family) to R-4 (multifamily) in April to accommodate housing for 10 or more families at a time.

The project will cost about $1.5 million and was funded by a $650,000 lead gift from an undisclosed foundation that was used to buy the property, as well as “many other individual donors” through Family Promise’s Room to Grow capital campaign that launched in March, Davis said.

Family Promise will use the west end of the building and lease the east side, which has a sanctuary and gathering spaces, to Wyoming Park UMC and another congregation called Casa De Mi Padre.

Since 2019, Wyoming Park UMC has participated in the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a program in which all Family Promise affiliate churches across the country offer one- or two-night stays to families experiencing housing instability. About 15 Kent County churches participate in IHN.

As Crain’s Grand Rapids Business previously reported, Wyoming Park UMC was struggling financially when Family Promise approached the church with the idea to turn its unused space to good use.

“This partnership has truly been a match made in heaven,” Wyoming Park Pastor Kimberly DeLong said in a text message to Crain’s Grand Rapids Business. “Wyoming Park UMC had space we weren’t using and no longer had the resources — human or financial — to care for the building. Ideally, we wanted a partner whose mission fit with our own, one in which we could participate. Selling our building to Family Promise and leasing back a portion allows us to fulfill our mission, join in theirs and invites the community to join in ending homelessness one family at a time, as well.”

As of Nov. 16, Family Promise said it was aware of about 46 families in the greater Grand Rapids area who were staying in spaces not meant for human habitation.

The new shelter, which will be staffed by caseworkers 24 hours a day under the supportive housing model, will bring Family Promise of West Michigan’s total number of temporary beds up to 51, Valk said.

The nonprofit anticipates that it will be able to accommodate about 65 families annually at the Wyoming Park Family Shelter. Family Promise will work to transition the residents to permanent housing within about 60 days.

“Family Promise works with families who tend to stay with us about 60 days through our shelter experience, but we don’t push people out at the end of their shelter stay,” Davis said. “We work with them and the case manager to find a permanent and positive housing experience after shelter. So that can happen at 40 days, it could happen at 80 days, (but) our average is right around 60.”

Firms involved with the renovation project included Kentwood-based Wolverine Building Group; Jeffrey Parker Architects Inc. and Pure Architects, both based in Grand Rapids; and consultant Joel Kamstra with Grand Rapids-based Frisia Group.