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Still saying NO to the Criminalization of the unhoused: Paying a visit to Mel Trotter Ministries

December 20, 2022

Last week, we reported on a group of activists that went to the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to demand that they retract their proposed ordinance for downtown Grand Rapids and make a public apology for even suggesting such an oppressive policy be adopted by the city.

Last night, another group of activists did the very same thing, by going to one of the entities that endorsed the GR Chamber’s ordinance proposal, Mel Trotter Ministries. This time there were no chants or signs being held by activists, so as not to alarm or cause any unnecessary stress to the people who utilize the services of Mel Trotter’s, primarily the unhoused.

One can’t enter Mel Trotter by just opening a door, instead every door has a security camera and a buzzer you have to push in order to gain access. Once inside, people approached a reception area, where staff were sitting behind plexiglass. Activists asked to see the CEO of Mel Trotter’s, Dennis Vankampen. However, when the help desk staff called back, they were told that the CEO was not there. Instead, the Vice President of Operations, Jeff Dashner, was sent out to greet the group of activists.

Once a representative of Mel Trotter was present, activists communicated the same thing they did last Monday to the GR Chamber, they demanded that they retract their support of the proposed ordinance for downtown Grand Rapids and make a public apology for supporting said ordinance proposal. They also demanded a response by this Friday.

Jeff Dashner said that he sent an e-mail to both Vankampen and another person who is part of the Executive Team. While making the demands it appeared to several of the activists present, that the Mel Trotter staff person seemed disinterested in what was being said. One activist, who does weekly work with the unhoused – mutual aid, harm reduction, etc. – spoke up and said, “We are not just observers, we work with the unhoused and are well aware of the precarious situation they are in, which is exactly why we are appalled by your organization’s support for the ordinance proposed by the GR Chamber of Commerce. Several other activists who were present, affirmed this point and made other comments, which were acknowledged. Another activists made it clear that as of Sunday, those involved in organizing against the Chamber’s proposed ordinance, had over 12,000 people send messages to Grand Rapids City officials making it clear that there was widespread popular opposition.

For those who were unable to attend in person, the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union, which is collaborating with other area activists, are encouraging people to contact Mel Trotter Ministries to demand they pull their support for the proposed ordinance from the GR Chamber of Commerce. Call Mel Trotter at 616.454.8249 or 616.797.8200 (thrift store), or email at Please share the graphic included in this article so we can get as many people to pressure Mel Trotter Ministries to do the right thing. 

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