In the six months since it opened, Fulton Manor Family Emergency Shelter has provided safe shelter to over 200 families, including more than 400 children. As the fiduciary for Fulton Manor, Heart of West Michigan United Way has accepted $819,500 to support the project and fielded 669 responses to volunteer opportunities at the shelter.
Fulton Manor is a response to the housing crisis in Grand Rapids. In the years since the recession, rents have ballooned, pushing many working families into homelessness. At the same time, local agencies don’t have enough shelter space to meet the need. At one point in 2018, more than 200 families were on a waiting list.
Kate O’Keefe, director of development and community engagement for Family Promise of Grand Rapids, says housing agencies have been sounding alarms about this for years. “Grand Rapids is a hot market. It’s a great place to be, but the flip side is that the cost of living has risen so dramatically and families who’ve been living and working here cannot afford to live here right now.”
According to Zillow, median rent list price for a single-family home in Grand Rapids went from $785 per month in June 2011 to $1,350 in June 2019 and has recently been as high as $1,500. Working from American Community Survey data, the Michigan League for Public Policy finds that rent accounts for 35% or more of monthly income in 46% of renting households in Grand Rapids.
Last year, Mina Breuker, president and CEO of Holland Home, called Family Promise and informed them that the Fulton Manor property, formerly an assisted living center, was open and could accommodate families in need.
A group of organizations including United Way, Kids’ Food Basket, and Family Promise, came together to get the shelter up and running. With approval from the City Commission, Fulton Manor Family Emergency Shelter opened in February.
“It’s really been an incredible collaboration,” O’Keefe said.
Right now, Fulton Manor is providing 60 families and children with emergency shelter.
O’Keefe says many of the parents are working, but their jobs simply don’t pay enough to keep up with their living expenses. “These families cannot believe they’re homeless,” O’Keefe said.
That squares with United Way’s most recent ALICE report, which found that 28% off Kent County residents are working yet still struggling to meet basic needs like housing, food, and transportation. The report also found that a family of four living in Kent County would have to earn $64,788 to fully meet all of their needs – more than the median household income.
From the beginning, Fulton Manor has been a short-term answer to the problem of family homelessness. The partner organizations, along with KConnect, are working on long-term solutions. The biggest need is for affordable housing.
The team at Fulton Manor works with each family to connect them with the resources they need to get into stable, permanent housing.
“Connecting families to housing and resources that are already in the community is life-changing for these families,” O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe points to three ways people can support Fulton Manor: by volunteering, making in-kind donations, or giving financially.
Consider donating everyday basics like bath towels and diapers. Other useful items include feminine hygiene products, pillows, all-purpose cleaner, and laundry detergent. Contact Volunteer Center Manager Katelyn Kovalik to learn more about donating supplies.
For prospective volunteers, Fulton Manor offers daily opportunities to get involved, including serving meals, leading arts and crafts activities for kids, and childcare. Hundreds of opportunities can be found on the Volunteer Center’s website.
Finally, consider making a monetary donation through United Way. Gifts are used to provide the facilities, services, and expert staff interventions needed to shelter families safely and help them move toward permanent housing. Give today.