Help us build a better future for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Dégagé Ministries ensures that our city continues to be a place of possibility for everyone. To meet growing community needs, we are expanding our capacity and advancing our mission by constructing a new three-story building and renovating our current facility.

The expansion and renovation project will allow us to help more people find the path to a more sustainable future.

Please prayerfully consider making a donation to help us.

Offline donations can be called in (616.454.1661) or sent to our offices at 144 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503.

Raised to Date:

$6,842,085
OF OUR $7,300,000 GOAL
93.73%

Make a Donation:

x $

Poverty in Our City is Real

The Numbers:

0+
People

in Kent County used the homeless system in 2018—3,400 were children.

0%
Increase

in chronic homelessness in the last four years.

0%
of working people

in the U.S. lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women have been impacted the hardest.

*According to the Coalition to End Homelessness.
Source: “Scott Pelley’s interview with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.” 60 Minutes. May 17, 2020.

The new and renovated facility will include:

An expanded dining room to serve 90,000 meals a year (50% increase in capacity, from 120 to 180 seats)

A day wellness center providing 1,000 – 2,000 new wellness visits per year

A workforce development center with expanded programming to serve 900 – 1,000 attendees per year

An expanded Open Door Women’s Center

  • Rooms for women and their children providing 3,000 – 3,500 new overnight stays per year
  • 65% increase in overnight shelter capacity and third-shift sleeping space (from 40 – 66 beds)

View more details in our Impact Report: Download PDF

Donec id elit non mi porta gravida at eget metus.

The dining room is the only community center in Heartside. I am so thankful you are expanding as it’s always so full.”

~ David, Dining Room Patron

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Matthew 25:35

Frequently Asked Questions:

Offline donations using credit cards can be called in 616.454.1661. Checks can be sent to our offices at 144 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503.

Patrons at Dégagé have multiple resources and options for healthcare such as the Heartside Health Clinic, Mercy Health, Cherry Street Health Center, and Spectrum Health. But they face challenges in accessing them—their anxiety might stop them from going, their lack of transportation might prevent them from attending a follow-up appointment, their past experiences with health care providers may deter them, their shame or fear of being judged may overwhelm them, their challenge of having no way to pay for ongoing health issues may prevent them getting the ongoing care they need. The reasons are numerous.

Our Executive Director tells the story of a woman who received funding from Dégagé’s Resource Office to obtain new glasses. Day after day, Marge saw her with taped up glasses. When Marge finally asked her why she had not gone to Cherry Street Clinic just on the opposite corner of Dégagé, the women bowed her head and said, “I didn’t know which door to walk in.” Our staff walked her over and she received her glasses.

A woman in Open Door recently needed eye surgery. Her insurance would only pay for one specific provider to perform the surgery. The provider was not on the bus line. She did not have a car and even if she did, she could not drive after surgery. She put off her surgery until Dégagé staff stepped in to find a volunteer to take her.

These stories illustrate something our staff has known for a long time—the population we serve has unique challenges that often prevent them from seeking help outside of our neighborhood in unfamiliar spaces that may feel scary, intimidating, or unknown. Having a supportive person to walk alongside them is critical, just as it is for people on the other end of the economic spectrum. Continue Reading ›

In addition to serving women its numerous other programs, Dégagé provided overnight emergency shelter for 317 unique women in 2018 in its Open Door Women’s Center. We also turned away women over 110 times due to lack of space. Of those served, twenty-eight percent came from places described as “not meant for human habitation.” Twenty-eight percent were staying with family or friends in a precarious or unstable environment. Twenty-six percent came to Dégagé from another shelter. Others came from hotels, hospitals, jails, treatment centers and homes with domestic abuse. In total, 11,245 overnight stays occurred. Continue Reading ›

Per the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness’ 2019 Annual Count Data:

The point-in-time study gathered that 9,228 people on any one given day in Kent County were facing homelessness, which is a 52% increase since 2016.

  • 51% of females faced homelessness
  • 49% were males who faced homelessness
  • 61% of African American people faced homelessness
  • 35% of white people faced homelessness
Continue Reading ›

We have conducted focus groups, surveys, etc. with the people we serve and have learned there is a strong desire to have access to job training and skills programing. The number one request is for computer classes followed by job readiness such as floor maintenance, painting, and culinary arts. We also learned those we serve desire budgeting classes, anger management, recovery classes, a book club, a writing group, etc. We are uniquely suited to provide these classes because of the relationships we develop with those we serve. We have heard that there is reluctance to go to another site or Grand Rapids Community College where they are unfamiliar with the setting and that there is a strong preference that the classes be offered at Dégagé. There has also been a request for GED prep classes. We would like to partner with Heartside Ministry, who offers GED classes but many of the people we serve need tutoring to get to that point. We are best suited to offer tutoring because of the wide base of volunteers that we have (over 1200 volunteers in 2018).

We are pleased to have many wonderful collaborations for a multitude of reasons! One of several new collaborations is with Family Promise as we strive to be part of the solution to improve shelter for families. Upon completion of the project, we will dedicate shelter space in the Open Door Women’s Center for women with children; Family Promise will continue to day manage each family served.

We will continue to enhance existing collaborations with Mel Trotter Ministries, Guiding Light, Network 180 H.A.P. (Housing Assessment Program through The Salvation Army), The Veteran’s Administration, Community Rebuilders, Disability Advocates, Street Reach, St. Mary’s Hospital, The Michigan Department of Corrections, among many others.

In efforts to improve workforce development, we will offer classes that will provide the training and coaching for the men and women who would like to grow their careers and provide a pathway from entry-level positions to intermediate jobs. We will expand our programming with collaborators such as Macatawa Bank, GR Therapy, West Michigan Works!, and Fettig Employment Agency. We will be actively seeking additional partnerships which will offer job training for those we serve.

Absolutely! We strongly believe that Grand Rapids is a city where all people can thrive and work together. The Heartside Neighborhood is the most diverse neighborhood in Grand Rapids. As the development of South Division continues, we are pleased to contribute to support and educate our neighbors.

Educating the community about homelessness and poverty is an important piece of the work we do at Dégagé. We frequently work against stereotypes and misunderstandings about the population we serve and we desire to have the community see our patrons in the same light we do—as individuals who have purpose and gifts to contribute to society. When asked if we are trying to hide our patrons, we would firmly say no. For instance, our patrons will still be actively involved in Dégagé’s Good Neighbor program. Through the program Dégagé sends individuals into the community to perform “good neighbor” tasks such as picking up trash, monitoring parking lots, pulling weeds, cleaning doorways and shoveling snow. Participants are given $10 per hour for the job they perform. We also have daily jobs throughout our facility and near our building. Last year we distributed 19,576 vouchers for the jobs. We believe these programs show that people from varying backgrounds can work together.

We are excited to add a retail shop to South Division! The current front entrance will change to a Pauls’ Moms’ Cookies retail space. Pauls’ Moms’ Cookies provides jobs to women who have graduated from the Open Door Women’s Center. Employees work alongside staff, volunteers, and the founders of Pauls’ Moms’ Cookies, earn an income, gain valuable job skills, and build relationships. With the expansion and addition of the retail shop, we will be able to increase the number of women we hire, increase our capacity of product, and increase support of the Open Door Women’s Center.

We have worked diligently to be a good neighbor to the businesses and residents around us. We receive complaints frequently about the loitering near our building. Despite our efforts to monitor the space, it is public property and our options are limited. Moving the entrance to Sheldon will provide a dignified place for our patrons to be without being harassed or constantly asked to move. Additionally, we want them to be safe and away from the busy Division and Cherry intersection. We will have a green space with benches on our property.

Though Dégagé is a Christian organization, we do not require men and women we serve to share our faith or participate in activities related to religion. Under no circumstances are individuals expected to engage in a religious activity in order to receive services. We have voluntary opportunities for patrons to attend Bible studies and prayer groups, but it is not required or expected of them.

Dégagé’s patrons have responded positively and they eagerly look forward to the results of the project. It is especially important for them (and us) that programming not be interrupted during construction.

Dégagé conducts point-in-time surveys to gain feedback about current and potential programs. We also conduct exit interviews in several of our programs, most notably the Open Door. Additionally, women who have been housed gather quarterly to gain encouragement and provide suggestions. Surveys, focus groups, and “town hall meeting” style conversations take place in our Dining Room as appropriate.

On a daily basis, feedback from patrons occurs at every level. We approach each person as an individual and partner in their own success. We do not simply set goals for them, they help direct and set the goals. Their feedback is the key to their success.

Dégagé Ministries fully endorses the “housing first” theory that providing safe, affordable housing for individuals facing homelessness will reduce homelessness. However, in our 53 years of serving the marginalized in Grand Rapids, we have learned that support services and ‘walking alongside’ the underserved is equally as important. There are wonderful organizations in town addressing the housing need. We have chosen to continue focusing on transforming lives by providing the services that are so crucial to daily life such as meals, socialization, and emergency shelter for women and children, jobs training, and resource support.

They are very supportive of the idea and feel it will reduce loitering on Division. Suzanne Schultz, the former Planning Director for the City of Grand Rapids, has also expressed support and feels moving the dining room/community center off of Division will help address the issue of loitering. We also have a very good relationship with the H.O.T. (homeless outreach team).

No. Dégagé has a very good relationship with business owners in the neighborhood and the City. Because of the expanding development on S. Division, Dégagé has strategically sought, through this project, to support and embrace the economic development taking place in this neighborhood.

Dégagé enjoys a healthy, collaborative partnership with many like-minded organizations, however there is minimal overlap in services. We all seek to be good stewards of the funding and resources provided, as a result, we all try to focus on areas of expertise with the patron in mind. We are well-known and received for our core offerings and feel we provide unique and important services for our patrons.

Capital Campaign Leadership Team

Letter from Marge Parmalee, Executive Director

Marge Parmalee
Marge ParmaleeExecutive Director

In all the excitement surrounding the Capital Campaign,
I keep coming back to one question: Why? Why are we doing this work?
Raising funds? Renovating our building, and expanding our programs? To answer that question, I need only to look outside my window.

When I look down South Division Avenue, and I can see that the need for relationships and services is greater than ever. Outside my window, I see men and women who are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, from the loss of employment, to a shortage of affordable housing, to the need for connection and hope.

Katherine is one of these people. When we surveyed the patrons of our ministry and asked them what aspect of our growth they were most excited about, Katherine said, “The extra beds in the Open Door (Women’s Shelter). I have been one of the ones turned away.”

This is why we are doing this work. We are doing it for Katherine, so she can know she has somewhere to stay for the night. We are doing it for Heidi, who needs a day respite center to rest her feet; both in supportive casts due to diabetes. We are doing it for James, who accesses our affordable meals every day, and Vince, who needs a place to safely store his belongings in a locker. We are doing this not only to expand our space, but to build up our services, and in doing so, to build up hope within our neighborhood.

In every step we have taken in this campaign, we have felt God’s leading, and His providence. What a privilege it is to follow His calling. I am thankful for the opportunity to join hands with the patrons who come through our doors every day, and with all of you who partner with our ministry. My hope is that you too will feel God’s calling to support our Capital Campaign. With a gift to our capital campaign, you can walk alongside Katherine, Heidi, James, and Vince, and the hundreds of other men and women in our community. Together, we will continue
building His kingdom.