Kent County warming shelters open doors to community amidst winter storm


Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

As characteristic harsh winter conditions arrive in West Michigan, warming centers open their doors to those looking for shelter from storms and freezing temperatures.

After the blizzard and low temperatures recorded at the end of December 2022, shelters and transitional housing continue to promote the resources they offer throughout the winter season. 

Seven warming centers across the Kent County area provide vulnerable individuals with relief from the cold. Most centers have additional purposes, such as Alano Club of Kent County. 

Alano Club is a nonprofit organization that primarily provides an alcohol treatment program with 13 different recovery support groups and meetings. However, the club said that its doors are open to anyone looking for warmth. 

“Anyone that would come in, we would offer them coffee and let them hang out for as long as they needed to,” said Chris Back, a manager at Alano Club. 

Back said that the snow storms and weather brought in people looking for shelter.

“We definitely had a handful of people that came in just to get out of the storm,” Back said. “Basically anybody that would come in, regardless of what time they came in, would stay until the time that we locked up at nine.”

Since Alano Club is not open throughout the night, Back said that people in need of shelter or warmth throughout the night should contact Mel Trotter Ministries, a shelter that’s open 24/7. 

Mel Trotter Ministries opened their 75-bed overflow shelter and day center in December 2021, according to MLive. The overnight shelter also acts as a warming center, along with a division of Mel Trotter Ministries, Heartside Ministries. 

Other shelters and treatment programs have also opened their doors as warming centers. Primarily open to men, Exodus Place offers transitional housing, re-housing and rehabilitation for those facing hardship. 

“We help men get back on their feet again, whether it’s from homelessness, getting out of jail or prison or just down on their luck,” said Chris Krobron, Exodus Place Facilities Manager.

Krobron said that Exodus Place’s warming center is open, but he didn’t see a lot of people coming from the storm. 

“We are a warming center, open from seven to seven,” Krobron said. “We’re kind of off the beaten path here, so we don’t get too many people coming in for the warming center.”

Warming centers commonly serve vulnerable individuals that might take temporary outdoor shelter, which could lead to damaging health effects. Without sufficient protective layers and access to warmth, exposure to harsh weather can pose serious danger, including frostbite and hypothermia.

“Everybody needs a chance to survive, you know,” Back said. “We can’t control these storms, and I think it’s only fair that we do whatever we can and use whatever resources that we have available to assist people who don’t have those resources or a roof over their head.”