Guiding Light Loans Facility to Kent County to Serve as a COVID-19 Isolation Center for Those Experiencing Homelessness
For Immediate Release
Contact: Starla McDermott
Guiding Light, 616.558.1811
Sabo PR, 616.401.5137
Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 27, 2020 – Guiding Light has voluntarily loaned its facility at 255 S. Division Ave. to Kent County so it can serve as an isolation center for those experiencing homelessness in the Heartside neighborhood who may contract COVID-19.
In cooperation with the Kent County Health Department, Guiding Light will voluntarily vacate the site on Saturday, March 28 until further notice so if someone who is homeless contracts the novel coronavirus, he or she can be taken care of there with proper medical equipment and personnel.
“The population in our densely populated Heartside district is at high risk for exposure to COVID-19,” said Guiding Light Executive Director Stuart P. Ray. “This highly mobile population does not have access to basic sanitation nor the ability to practice physical distancing. In addition, many are also dealing with substance or mental health issues and compromised immune systems.”
“We recognized a need for a coordinated plan to help address an outbreak of coronavirus among this vulnerable population and felt it was critical for us to step up to help. We have been able to quickly move our programming off-site and will turn the building over to the county rent-free to be used as an isolation center.
“As a nonprofit with 90 years of supporting the most vulnerable in our society, Guiding Light felt it was our duty to step forward to make available a safe, clean and secure space in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 in Heartside.”
The building has two dozen private rooms, a bunk area and large chapel area to accommodate at least 60 individuals. There are also six bathrooms, a full-service kitchen and parking for 20.
“The enormity of the public health crisis created by COVID-19 is staggering,” said Adam London, administrative health officer at the Kent County Health Department. “The Kent County Health Department would not be equipped to address such a crisis if it weren’t for the community partners who have stepped up and offered help in amazing and creative ways.
“Guiding Light Mission has always been a valued partner, but now more than ever, we appreciate their collaboration, their sacrifice and their generosity. Our goal is to provide a safe place for people who are experiencing homelessness to recover from the coronavirus and to keep the transmission of the virus to a minimum by isolating those with the infection. This is a very strategic and important public health intervention which will save lives.”
London said Kent County hopes to have plans for opening the isolation center finalized next week.
Meanwhile, Guiding Light continues to keep its rescue, recovery and re-engagement programs running while ensuring employees and the men served remain safe and in good health. All the men in the Recovery program were moved to Guiding Light’s sober-living apartments, known as Iron House. Men in the Back to Work program without other accommodations were offered the option to be temporarily housed elsewhere.
Group and one-on-one support meetings have continued virtually with the help of video conference platforms to help the men stay connected while physical distancing.
“Although this outbreak is adding an extra roadblock on our clients’ paths to recovery and re-engagement, as well as extra expense on us, we know this is the right step to safeguard this population and our community,” Ray said. “We are all in this together, adapting to meet changing needs throughout this unprecedented time.”
About Guiding Light
Founded in 1929 as the West Fulton St. Mission, Guiding Light has grown into a robust recovery and re-engagement community designed to help those living at society’s margins fulfill their God-given potential. The nonprofit has been building on a near century of compassion and celebrated 90 years of serving Grand Rapids in 2019. Through its Back to Work, Recovery and Iron House programs, Guiding Light works with men struggling with addiction and homelessness to return to society. Since 2017, Guiding Light has earned a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, which underscores our commitment to accountability and transparency. For more information, visit guidinglightworks.org.
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2 CORINTHIANS 5:17
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