HQ contains open welcoming spaces, food, showers, laundry, computer labs, conference and consulting areas to introduce street kids from as young as 7 and 8 to early 20s to area youth resources and help facilities for runaway and homeless youth. HQ's drop-in center is located on the NE corner behind St. Mary's Hospital (kiddy-korner across the intersection) and east of the Cherry Street Medical offices. Initial hours of operation will be from 3-6 pm as HQ ramps up with staff and volunteer helpers. Intentions will be to provide temporary bedding, education, and placement services with area social agencies.
"Since no one wants these kids, we do.... These are our kids now."
- HQ Motto
Mars Hill | HQ Runaway and Homeless Youth Drop-in Center
Grand Rapids, MI
on November 10, 2014 at 6:30 AM, updated November 10, 2014 at 1:56 PM
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Shandra Steininger isn’t sure how many teenagers and young people will use HQ, the area’s first drop-in center for runaway and homeless youth between downtown and the Heritage Hill neighborhood.
But the director of the new program at 320 State St. SE is confident they will be busy when the doors open later this month. About 40 percent of all homeless persons are minors under age 18, Steininger said.
“We want this to be a safe place where kids want to be and can truly be who they are,” Steininger said Friday, Nov. 7, as carpenters completed their work and movers installed furniture in the 93-year-old brick building on the eastern edge of downtown.
Before they open the doors, the sponsors of HQ are planning an open house for the community and its neighbors from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov 14. A ribbon cutting ceremony with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce will be at 1 p.m.
HQ was created by Mars Hill Bible Church in partnership with Arbor Circle, a social service agency that operates The Bridge, a shelter for kids and teenagers aged 10-17. The new drop-in center will be open from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.
The new center, which will operate independently as its own nonprofit agency, is aimed at serving an estimated 2,000 teenagers and young persons who experience homelessness in the Grand Rapids area each year.
“Every night in Grand Rapids, 200 youth don’t have a safe place to sleep,” said Andy Soper, Director of Mobilization at Mars Hill Bible Church and Founder of the Manasseh Project, a shelter for minor victims of human trafficking.
“Right now, we know these kids are slipping through the cracks,” Soper said in a statement. “HQ will provide a transformative space and connect these youth who are experiencing the crisis of homelessness to the services they need.”
Although the center was created with more than $600,000 in gifts from Mars Hill Bible Church, Steininger said visitors will not be required to attend worship services nor will they be proselytized.
After checking in, visitors will have an opportunity to make a sandwich, charge up their cell phones, do laundry and take a shower. The center also includes rooms for counseling, computer access and job-finding tools.
Steininger said the staff will attempt to plug its visitors into existing services rather than develop new programs. Hence, Arbor Circle will have staff on hand to offer help if it requested.
Which services, if any, the kids use will be up to them, Steininger said. “We’re going to help them move from a state of crisis. We’re going to meet them where they’re at.”
Some teenagers who have been victims of abuse may be distrustful, Steininger said. “I imagine some people will walk in and won’t trust us – and that’s a healthy response.” She also expects to welcome LGBT teens who make up about 40 percent of all homeless youth.
"HQ's unique philosophy of empowering youth as the experts in their own lives creates a space where they want to be connected and where the entire community can truly come together to support them in their struggles, successes and everything in between,” she said.
HQ was intentionally located several blocks away from other missions and shelters that serve older adults, where young people don't feel as safe, Steininger said. But it is near several bus lines so that kids from suburban communities can use the facility, too.
The single-story brick and cement block building was last used as a call center by Mercy Health Saint Mary's. It was originally built in 1921 by Paul Nissen Corp., a distributor of automotive shock absorbers. The building served as the home of Central Auto Glass and Mirror Co. in the 1960s.
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