Family: Why placed in motel filled with sex offenders?

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) – A homeless family is asking why a local housing agency didn’t say anything when it gave them emergency shelter at a Wyoming motel where dozens of sex offenders are staying.

Audronnia Hawkins said she and her family went to the Grand Rapids clearinghouse for homeless help run by the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army sent her family to the Grand Rapids Inn on 28th Street.

The Hawkins family didn’t know the motel has a contract with the Michigan Department of Corrections to house a prisoner re-entry program. There are currently 36 sex offenders in the program.

“We have four school age children and that’s a great concern,” said Hawkins.

She heard about the contract from 24 Hour News 8 when she called to complain about another motel they tried to put her family in that she says is known for drugs and prostitution.

The Salvation Army didn’t warn the family of the contract.

“I no more have interest in labeling sex offenders than I do people who are homeless. The point is everybody’s on the road to recover,” said Betty Zylstra with the Salvation Army.

Zylstra said the Grand Rapids Inn is the last place they want to put people and the Hawkins family is the only one placed at the motel since last October.

She said the Salvation Army now uses motels as emergency shelters only as a last resort. In 2013, there were only 46 motel placements. Payments to motels dropped over the years from $100,000 a year to $5,000.

“We need to focus more on permanent housing,” said Zylstra.

The Salvation Army wants to put families in permanent housing faster. They only use motels for one or two nights, paying motels less than $50 a night to house people.

There are only four local motels that are willing to take their homeless clients.

“Our community isn’t coming together to say let’s figure out more money for better motels. What we’re saying is let’s figure out the money for housing and how do we best work with people are in a housing crisis,” said Zylstra.

The Hawkins family is no longer staying at the Grand Rapids Inn. The Salvation Army got the family into a 30-day transitional shelter while they’re looking for more permanent housing.

The family said it’s a hundred times better than the motel.

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