Kalamazoo Homeless Shelter Plans $10M Upgrade to Expand Space for Women and Children

2009 Wuerffel Trophy Recipient Tim Hiller and wife Michelle, chaired a capital campaign to lead the expansion

KALAMAZOO, MI — The emergency homeless shelter in Kalamazoo plans to build a new facility for women and children in spring 2020 to accommodate the growing demographic.

The Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, recently rebranded as Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries, has an emergency shelter and a longer-term, supportive shelter for people in need. Both shelters are separated by gender.

The women and children’s shelter was previously in its own building, but that building was vacated for health and safety concerns. Parts of that building have been unusable for years, with issues including water damage, and it was fully vacated after a fire in summer 2018.

Women and children have been temporarily moved to the second floor of the building that houses men, said John Simpson, the ministry’s chief operations officer.

Photo: Joel Bissell, mlive.com

The decision to close the women’s shelter has resulted in tighter quarters. Pastor Michael Brown, president and CEO of the ministry, said he is looking forward to the space the new facilities will bring back. The ministry serves 80% of Kalamazoo’s homeless population, Brown said.

“We’re excited to get the new building up and get back into spaces so we can breathe again,” he said.

The number of people using the shelter increased in December 2019 when compared to numbers from December 2018, Simpson said. Men utilizing the shelter was up 4% and the number of women and children was up 11% in December.

Numbers fluctuate day to day, Simpson said. But, on average, the shelter houses 325 people each night at its North Burdick Street facility in downtown Kalamazoo, he said. The mission has space for a total of 475 guests, but operates under a philosophy that no one should be turned away and can create more space if the need arose, Simpson said. He added that the ministry also has a network of other agencies to help with capacity needs if necessary.

Plans for a new facility to better serve the growing demographic of women and children have been drafted, and construction is slated to being in spring 2020 and be completed by May 2021.
The Credo Cafe at Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. The cafe serves three meals a day with an average of 600 total meals per day (photo Joel Bissell mlive.com)
“We’re at an exciting point with (construction),” Simpson said. “We’re closing on funding and demolition will start in April.”
The $10 million project is mainly funded by private donations, with additional federal home loan bank tax credits and a few foundation donations, he said.

The design for the new 4,700-square-foot, three-story building includes a good Samaritan room on the first floor, with cots for single women needing emergency shelter.

The top two floors will house women and children participating in case management programs through a case manager. There will be apartment-style units on the second floor for single women with children to create more “intimate, safe and comfortable living quarters,” Simpson said.
The third floor will have a flexible space with smaller rooms to accommodate demographics based on need, such as single men with children or geriatric guests.