A call for help

On February 29, 2016, weather forecasters were predicting a record-breaking overnight snowstorm. On her way home, a local crossing guard noticed a mother with a newborn sitting on a park bench and 3 small children sitting at her feet, covered with blankets. When the crossing guard asked the family if they were okay, the 5-year-old boy spoke for his mother (who spoke limited English) and said that his family was homeless and planning to sleep on the bench that night. The crossing guard called Heart of West Michigan United Way’s 211 health and human services hotline for help.

After speaking with the crossing guard and the little boy, 211 put a call out within their statewide system and contacted local police, CPS, and the Salvation Army. With our help, the police immediately came to the family's aid and worked with the Salvation Army Housing Assessment Program to find them emergency food and shelter.

By morning, 10.9 inches of wet snow had fallen.

Without these sorts of partnerships between public and private services, without the crossing guard, 211, the police, CPS, and Salvation Army, without donors who make this network of services possible, this mother with a newborn and 3 small children would have been left to fend for herself through the snowstorm. It’s hard to think about what may have happened.

People are complex. There is not one person, one organization, or one silver bullet for the community-wide issues we face. Families with children are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, making up almost 50 percent of those who are homeless in West Michigan.

At Heart of West Michigan United Way, we are continuously working to build stronger partnerships with the champions of our community and find ways to work better together. Every day, our donors help us invest in emergency shelter, affordable housing, mental health services, violence prevention, and food security, and more.

To see more of the results from these investments, visit www.hwmuw.org/results.