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Shelters in Heartside

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I think there are perhaps three threads of thoughts here:

  • One is the problem of people loitering, together with a variety of asocial public behavior.
  • Second, there is problem of concentration of services.
  • Third, there is the perceived problem of too much subsidized housing.

While there is a certain interlocking of these, they really are three problems. The asocial behavior is not a function of service concentration except in a certain Baysian mode: x% of the very poor act in this way. Well, we have 800 or so in the immediate neighborhood, so apply your probabilities.

 

Given a pedestrian population, does dispersal make any sense whatsoever? Remember here that it is not just the three missions, it is the Goodwill store, Dwelling Place, Cherry Street Health, Heartside Ministry, and I'm sure I'm leaving out others. There is a web of services for a very fixed population. Does dispersal really make sense given the immobility of the population?

 

Last, too much subsidized housing. We certainly could put them in another neighborhood, several already ave significant numbers (John Ball Park, Mary Waters housing by St. Alphonsus, etc). I think much of this depends on who exactly such housing is for -- the downtown population may be different from those in other neighborhoods (let's get the social scientists on this).

 

And then a word about this being a "gateway to the city" -- uh, no. The better gateway is Ionia/Ottawa corridor, particularly if the S curve comes down (again, see the Salon discussions). While the street will become important with the Silver Line, that will still be principally serving the working class communities along Division (Burton Heights, Godwin, Home Acres, Kellogsville).

 

So given all this, rather than indulge in fanatasies about the street, let's own that the problem is more specific, that of asocial behavior by a relatively few. that is manageable, and I bet that can be dealt with.

 

This probably goes right back to the ambassador discussion then. If they are serving as citizen police patrols, then I think it's a good idea. However, it's just a short term solution.

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I cannot believe the GRPD hasn't the resources to put a couple cops walking a beat from Fulton to Wealthy. They don't have to clear the sidewalks, arrest people or turn into an occupying force - just BE there - engage with people. We've welcomed reps from Dégagé and Guiding Light into this discussion and I think they've provided us with some valuable information - there must be someone from City Hall checking this site out on occasion who could also join in. How about DDA? It looks as though the only realistic solution is going to be "peaceful coexistence" but if there are no efforts being made by our city government/law enforcement, then that stretch of Division will never see it's full potential.

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So your saying with the Millions of dollars being put into the BRT line, Division is not a gateway into the city? By pure definition, it is a gateway. Is it ever going to look like the yellow brick road to Oz? No. But to say Division is NOT a gateway, an entry to the city, a first impression, that is simply wrong. 

 

Does there need to be a "web" of services, so closely integrated. As stated above, there are other Low income facilities around the city. Are they at a disadvantage (I don't know)? 

 

I'm interested in what you say, but I still think it is highly based on statistics and probabilities. I'm basing my posts on what I experience daily, and what others tell me. If 800 people are loitering, and only X percent act in a bad way, it doesn't matter what X is - most people will still not take those odds. 

 

Joe

 

 

And then a word about this being a "gateway to the city" -- uh, no. The better gateway is Ionia/Ottawa corridor, particularly if the S curve comes down (again, see the Salon discussions). While the street will become important with the Silver Line, that will still be principally serving the working class communities along Division (Burton Heights, Godwin, Home Acres, Kellogsville).

 

So given all this, rather than indulge in fanatasies about the street, let's own that the problem is more specific, that of asocial behavior by a relatively few. that is manageable, and I bet that can be dealt with.

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I would say yes to this. Maybe it is just me but I think we're intelligent people. We understand the plight of the homeless, veterans with special needs, etc. But is the space on Division the best use for the city as a whole? I don't think so. 

 

If the city can say no to a doctors office on the first floor of Monroe Center, or a church in a traditional neighborhood district, why should this be any different?

 

I also wonder if services located in a specially designed building wouldn't be a better utilization of space. Developers can justify the cost of upgrades and renovations to these older buildings. Is the current Degage building fully utilized/efficient? Or would something designed specifically for your needs serve the community better?

 

Joe

 

Would you be opposeded to us moving some place else in the neighborhood, somewhere within walking distance for those who use our services, but just not on the corner of Division & Cherry? 

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I cannot believe the GRPD hasn't the resources to put a couple cops walking a beat from Fulton to Wealthy. They don't have to clear the sidewalks, arrest people or turn into an occupying force - just BE there - engage with people. We've welcomed reps from Dégagé and Guiding Light into this discussion and I think they've provided us with some valuable information - there must be someone from City Hall checking this site out on occasion who could also join in. How about DDA? It looks as though the only realistic solution is going to be "peaceful coexistence" but if there are no efforts being made by our city government/law enforcement, then that stretch of Division will never see it's full potential.

 

There was a study/focus group done by some of the stakeholders and the DDA, where the ambassador idea was born. At least I know the DDA is concerned about it. Is the police chief? I haven't heard anything since the drug bust sweeps at Pekich Park a few years ago shortly after it opened and All City Kicks moved out.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I think this warrants a broader bigger discussion group. Possibly a public forum. I'm going to work on that.

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I would say yes to this. Maybe it is just me but I think we're intelligent people. We understand the plight of the homeless, veterans with special needs, etc. But is the space on Division the best use for the city as a whole? I don't think so. 

 

If the city can say no to a doctors office on the first floor of Monroe Center, or a church in a traditional neighborhood district, why should this be any different?

 

I also wonder if services located in a specially designed building wouldn't be a better utilization of space. Developers can justify the cost of upgrades and renovations to these older buildings. Is the current Degage building fully utilized/efficient? Or would something designed specifically for your needs serve the community better?

 

Joe

 

Definitely a gateway.

 

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On the 800 -- that is roughly the Census estimates of HH <10k for tracts 20 and 21 (downtown). Not all 800 are loitering. The asocial behavior with loitering seems a public space issue and fairly amendable. Other issues under discussions, such as the web of services, are more structural in nature. Speaking about that web: this web is potentially a very valuable tool for working with this population. On the provider end, it is a network of experience and intellectual capital. What makes it particularly interesting is its variety and mix of private-public ventures. As with any other concentration of resources, you get better ideas together than when they are spread apart. if we want to solve the public behavior problems while also helping the residents -- this sort of in-depth provider resource would be a requisite.

 

As to gateway. I suppose I was thinking about it in terms of how those outside the metro region come to the City. That would be our highways and the respective exits. (One can imagine a hypothetical re-routing here, making Hall the primary entry point to DT -- that would than make Division a gateway) While I think the BRT is important for the region, it basically is designed to move people already living within the urban area, in this case north of M-6; it will be  important for adult students taking classes at CC, for service workers in hospitality and hospital. I would be happy to be proved wrong and find that folks from Gaines Twp are driving to the southern terminus to ride, I'm just not convinced as to how realstic that hope is.

 

 

So your saying with the Millions of dollars being put into the BRT line, Division is not a gateway into the city? By pure definition, it is a gateway. Is it ever going to look like the yellow brick road to Oz? No. But to say Division is NOT a gateway, an entry to the city, a first impression, that is simply wrong. 

 

Does there need to be a "web" of services, so closely integrated. As stated above, there are other Low income facilities around the city. Are they at a disadvantage (I don't know)? 

 

I'm interested in what you say, but I still think it is highly based on statistics and probabilities. I'm basing my posts on what I experience daily, and what others tell me. If 800 people are loitering, and only X percent act in a bad way, it doesn't matter what X is - most people will still not take those odds. 

 

Joe

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What all does Heartside have that supports the helping of the homeless and low-income residents and those coming for the great services that are provided?
The Ferguson Dental Clinic on Sheldon which is run by Cherry Street Health Services provides dental services for low-income people. They also have access at Mercy Health Saint Mary's Hospital. Heartside also has the Police Station, Fire and Ambulance along with the new mental health service building of Heart of the City Health Center.
The questions that should be answered are:
Are all the services in Heartside providing effective help to assist people to be self-suffiecient?
Is Hearside the ideal location to provide the effective assistance that is needed by many?
Would another location be able to provide these service more effectively?
Is the cost with regard to retail to great for Heartside, mainly Division Ave?
Are devopers able to overcome the situation with all of the homeless, low-income services that are in Heartside?
How can the DDA, Police, Fire or Ambassadors assist developers with managing Division Ave. for retail or other commercial enterpises?

I believe that Heartside and Division Ave. is improving at a nice pace and that things can be worked out for continued improvements while retaining all of the services that Heartside provides for the needy.
I believe our focus needs not to be on relocating the needed services but rather on the services being effective to achieve the goal of assisting people to be self-suffient.
I hope Heartside continues as it is with the awesome improvements.
As has been shared here, Guiding Light Mission has changed their programs for improved effectiveness with actually helping people to be self-suffient. We can work together to provide assistance and input for other services to be more effective also.
Heartside can truly be the side of Grand Rapids with a heart when effective actions are given.
 

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Would you be opposeded to us moving some place else in the neighborhood, somewhere within walking distance for those who use our services, but just not on the corner of Division & Cherry? 

I think you could better serve the community of Heartside with relocating to a better location in the neighborhood. I think it would be totally awesome if you could aquire the Purple East lot, tear it down and build to suite. May be a pipe dream but all things are possible.

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I think you could better serve the community of Heartside with relocating to a better location in the neighborhood. I think it would be totally awesome if you could aquire the Purple East lot, tear it down and build to suite. May be a pipe dream but all things are possible.

The Purple East lot??!?!?! Tear down retail to put in social services? The problem is that no matter how many social services programs we have we will never reach the goal of getting everyone off the streets. Especially if people come from outside of GR because we have the rep of being a haven of sorts. Id like to see a maximum of one shelter for each district in the city. one in heartside, westside, city center, nomo, etc. that would space them out enough to dilute the negatives that come with them while still providing the services that they need.

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Well,  at least you're aware of it and apparently trying to do something.  I drive past Degage on a daily basis, and you have by far the worst problem.  Why is it that at any given time, there are 30-40 people loitering outside of Degage engaged in all manner of objectionable and illegal behavior?  What have the other missions done to clean this up?  Guiding Light has actually been remarkably quiet of late, and once the soup line moves inside, will have eliminated most of their problem. 

 

Are the police unwilling to assist?  Frankly, it seems a little disheartening that they say you can't clean it up.  I cannot imagine them telling any other business with 30-40 people loitering on the street causing trouble and repeated public disturbances that the business could do nothing, and the police wouldn't help.  If, in fact, this is the case, perhaps a significant amount of blame needs to be leveled at the GRPD.  This is an outfit, after all, whose cruisers I have regularly seen drive right past and ignore people standing in the street on off-ramps (particularly Wealthy and 131) with signs begging for money and banging on windows.

 

 On April 1 we brought in an outside security company which has greatly reduced the drug dealing in and around our facility.  We have heard very positive comments from the people who need and appreciate our services.   We would all love to see more police presence in this neighborhood but with their current budget constraints, that will probably not happen in the near future.   The police have said they appreciate us utilizing an outside security company but that they have to realize they do not have any authority to move people off the public sidewalk.  Thus the loitering continues to be an issue that is challenging to deal with, especially since those with addictions also know we have no authority to make them move.  There is no incentive for them when they are already suspended. 

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Are the police unwilling to assist?  Frankly, it seems a little disheartening that they say you can't clean it up.  I cannot imagine them telling any other business with 30-40 people loitering on the street causing trouble and repeated public disturbances that the business could do nothing, and the police wouldn't help.  If, in fact, this is the case, perhaps a significant amount of blame needs to be leveled at the GRPD.  This is an outfit, after all, whose cruisers I have regularly seen drive right past and ignore people standing in the street on off-ramps (particularly Wealthy and 131) with signs begging for money and banging on windows.

 

The state's anti-panhandling law was struck down by a federal court last year, and the city decided to go hands-off on panhandlers in the wake of the ruling.  Minor side point though, the whole thing is frustrating.

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I think there are perhaps three threads of thoughts here:

  • One is the problem of people loitering, together with a variety of asocial public behavior.
  • Second, there is problem of concentration of services.
  • Third, there is the perceived problem of too much subsidized housing.

...

Given a pedestrian population, does dispersal make any sense whatsoever? Remember here that it is not just the three missions, it is the Goodwill store, Dwelling Place, Cherry Street Health, Heartside Ministry, and I'm sure I'm leaving out others. There is a web of services for a very fixed population. Does dispersal really make sense given the immobility of the population?

...

Point of information: Good Will is not necessarily part of the "web of services." They recently opened a store across from Meijer @ Cascade, along with almost-tony s-b-rb-n (buy some vowels! hi Dad!) locations in Rockford and Standale and Kentwood. They operate not one, but two "Blue Boutiques" within a couple miles of this location.

 

Carry on.

 

(long-time thrift store shopper)

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Well,  at least you're aware of it and apparently trying to do something.  I drive past Degage on a daily basis, and you have by far the worst problem.  Why is it that at any given time, there are 30-40 people loitering outside of Degage engaged in all manner of objectionable and illegal behavior?  What have the other missions done to clean this up?  Guiding Light has actually been remarkably quiet of late, and once the soup line moves inside, will have eliminated most of their problem. 

 

Are the police unwilling to assist?  Frankly, it seems a little disheartening that they say you can't clean it up.  I cannot imagine them telling any other business with 30-40 people loitering on the street causing trouble and repeated public disturbances that the business could do nothing, and the police wouldn't help.  If, in fact, this is the case, perhaps a significant amount of blame needs to be leveled at the GRPD.  This is an outfit, after all, whose cruisers I have regularly seen drive right past and ignore people standing in the street on off-ramps (particularly Wealthy and 131) with signs begging for money and banging on windows.

I agree - much of the blame needs to fall on the shoulders of the GRPD. Get them out of their cruisers and start walking  a beat! Perhaps if someone were to open a donut shop at Division/Cherry, we'd see more of a police presence. (Tongue-in-cheek.....but just a little.)

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The AG is appealing, but I'm wouldn't bet on a win.  But it's a good point--that ruling resulted in a dramatic increase in the amount of panhandling as the City essentially went completely hands off.  Still, given all the reports of clearly visible illegal activity among those loitering outside the shelters, and blocking the public sidewalks (which is the more immediate issue so far as Division is concerned), it would seem the police should have plenty of ammunition to break up the majority of the crowds. 

 

The best solution to the obnoxious individual panhandling, though, might be to simply deed over or lease the sidewalks to the adjoining private property owners, with an easement reserved back for public use.  Same thing goes for the parks:  Last I checked, the local mall had plenty of nice spaces that weren't filled with bums, panhandlers, and vagrants.  The City is somewhat constrained, but nothing says they can't simply deed them over to a consortium of local businesses. 

 

 

 

The state's anti-panhandling law was struck down by a federal court last year, and the city decided to go hands-off on panhandlers in the wake of the ruling.  Minor side point though, the whole thing is frustrating.

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What is the rule with people sleeping on the sidewalk... at 3 in the afternoon? I had to step over a guy 3 times last week near the corner of Weston and Division (right near the bus stop). Seemed like the people waiting for the bus were a bit annoyed as well.

 

Joe

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What is the rule with people sleeping on the sidewalk... at 3 in the afternoon? I had to step over a guy 3 times last week near the corner of Weston and Division (right near the bus stop). Seemed like the people waiting for the bus were a bit annoyed as well.

 

Joe

Once again - where are the police?

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What is the rule with people sleeping on the sidewalk... at 3 in the afternoon? I had to step over a guy 3 times last week near the corner of Weston and Division (right near the bus stop). Seemed like the people waiting for the bus were a bit annoyed as well.

 

Joe

 

There's no law against that AFAIK.

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I still go back to GRDad's comment that if this were college kids outside a bar exhibiting this behavior instead of homeless outside a shelter, the police and community leader response would be far different.  I think this insight gets at the heart of why the situation is so frustrating.  In other words, is this a community where, if I go into Hopcat and drink a bit too much, I can step outside and lay down on the sidewalk and nap it off and the GRPD will not hassle me one bit?

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There's no law against that AFAIK.

There's definitely laws against it.  Try to do a protest on a city sidewalk without moving from point to point and see how long before you get arrested.

 

City ordinance (in almost every city in the country) states that a sidewalk is a thoroughfare and can only be used for movement from one place to another.  Standing, stopping, sitting, laying, or blocking the sidewalk (not necessarily the whole sidewalk, either) are all against the law.  Technically, even the lines of tents for arena events are in violation of the ordinance, but the ordinance is never enforced in such cases.  It may occasionally be enforced in higher traffic areas outside of the mission triangle with sleeping, and it's definitely strictly enforced to the T anywhere downtown when there's a protest, but other than that it's usually ignored.  (And a good thing, too, otherwise Mr. and Mrs. Smith stopping to take a photo on the sidewalk could get in trouble, according to the ordinance.)  (This is why you usually see protests marching back and forth along a section of sidewalk, they do so to avoid being arrested for blocking the sidewalk.)

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I still go back to GRDad's comment that if this were college kids outside a bar exhibiting this behavior instead of homeless outside a shelter, the police and community leader response would be far different.  I think this insight gets at the heart of why the situation is so frustrating.  In other words, is this a community where, if I go into Hopcat and drink a bit too much, I can step outside and lay down on the sidewalk and nap it off and the GRPD will not hassle me one bit?

 

Those college students exhibiting unruly drunken behavior may be doing it due to a drinking problem, or substance abuse. Something beyond their control. Oh wait....

 

I think Grand Rapids should institute daily siestas, on the sidewalks.

 

I jest. I'm glad this discussion is still going.

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The Downtown Market cares about the people in Heartside.
 

We're teaming up with our wonderful Heartside neighbors trying to make a difference!

Starting this Saturday, June 22, join the Market, and our vendors, by purchasing something fresh, healthy, and local from a Market vendor, and drop it off at the food donation truck right on-site. At the end of the day, your fresh food donations will go to folks in need at Mel Trotter Ministries, DéGagé Ministries, Guiding Light Mission and God's Kitchen.

Fresh Food For Heartside Donation Truck Hours:
Tuesday: 11a-1p
Thursday: 5p-7p
Saturday: 11a-1p

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