BY ROBERTA KING
PHOTOGRAPHY STEVEN DAVID BRANNON
Well House, a nonprofit housing organization on Grand Rapids’ Southeast side was awarded a $257,000 grant from The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The grant will support access to housing, healthy food and community engagement for homeless people in Grand Rapids.
“This grant changes things greatly, profoundly for Well House. We’re going to be able to fast forward all of our strategies and plans,” said Executive Director, Tami VandenBerg. “Our dream of ending homelessness in Grand Rapids is a bit closer to coming true.”
The Kellogg Foundation funds will be used to purchase three additional homes in the Well House neighborhood (Cass Street SE) allowing the organization to move an additional 25-35 currently homeless people into safe, affordable housing each year. “Well House specifically targets homeless individuals and families that have been denied other housing options for the homeless population,” said VandenBerg.
In addition to housing, the Kellogg grant includes funding to expand Well House’s urban farm and provide employment to 10-20 tenants each year. “The employment opportunities will be on the farm or working to rehabilitate the houses purchased with the grant,” VandenBerg said. Through the farm and green house, which are located on a vacant lot adjacent to the three existing Well House properties, the organization expects to provide significant amount of fresh produce to its tenants and neighborhood residents.
“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is honored to support the great work of Well House. We believe their commitment to community engagement throughout all of their work will help support the neighborhood and families in creating their own conditions for success and healthy living,” said Andrew Brower, program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Well House is looking to do some volunteer recruitment with its Kellogg funds. VandenBerg expects that in the next several months, 75-100 volunteers will complete a Well House orientation to introduce the organization’s model of Housing First, as well as the importance of food justice and inclusion to people who will help the organization.
Since January 2013, when VandenBerg began leading Well House, she has secured Grand Rapids based grants including $25,000 from the Dyer Ives Foundation and $10,000 from the Sebastian Foundation, both for the urban farm project. Well House is also launching a major mushroom growing effort.
In addition to the three grants, Well House also received a low interest loan of $25,000 from Grand Rapids Community Foundation to purchase a house at 632 Cass Street SE from the Kent County Land Bank.
To learn more about Well House, visit their website: http://www.wellhousegr.org
LIKE them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Well-House/437732526237528?fref=ts