Back on Your Feet: What GR is doing to combat homelessness

June 24th, 2015

Community Convo with Tami VHomelessness is an issue that is often ignored by many Americans.

Unfortunately, I have been guilty of that same neglect. Growing up in a small Illinois community of about 12,000, homelessness was not a visible issue throughout my childhood. It was one of those things that, unfortunately, was “out of sight, out of mind” for me. It’s an area of life in which I am fairly naive. But fortunately, organizations like Well House are committed to spreading awareness of and resolving the issue of homelessness in our community.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a 616 Community Conversation with Tami VandenBerg, the executive director of Grand Rapids’ Well House. It was incredible to watch 20-25 members of our community come together to discuss homelessness and what we can do to combat it. Tami and her team provide a great example of what that looks like and how we can all be involved.

To add some further insight, I recently read a statistic claiming that Grand Rapids has seen a 15% increase in homelessness over the past year. I couldn’t help but ask myself what could be done to reverse that number. The answer is not easy. Unfortunately, there isn’t a calculated formula to solving homelessness. Though I’m happy to know that Well House plays an active role in the solution.

Well House is more than your typical shelter; they are committed to providing safe, affordable housing – regardless of a person’s past or current situation. More importantly, they are committed to helping their community figure out the future. Well House gives people the support, encouragement and resources to get back on their feet. That’s something I want to be a part of. Do you?


Missed out on the conversation? Watch the recap.
– Question: What makes WellHouse different? [VIDEO]
– Question: How does WellHouse keep people from ending up back on the streets? [VIDEO]


Written by:  Andrew Donsbach, Apprentice

Andrew Donsbach, Apprentice

We are excited to introduce our summer apprentice at 616 Lofts — Andrew Donsbach. Andrew will be sharing his perspective as a millennial with us on our community, the city of Grand Rapids and the field of development. Look forward to future writings from Andrew in our blog.


Likes: days at the ballpark and family time.
Dislikes: slow cars in the left lane.
Likes: overcoming challenges, stimulating conversations.
Dislikes: snakes.


Andrew recently joined the 616 Tribe as the Apprentice for Summer 2015. As he works to better understand the complex world of 616, Andrew will be working heavily with organizational communication to community members of both 616 Lofts and the city of Grand Rapids. From visual communication, to helping with community creation, Andrew is an enthusiastic addition to the Tribe.


Raised in the small town of Effingham, Illinois, Andrew is a student at Eastern Illinois University. He has always had a knack for visual elements & communication, and is driven by creativity. Andrew’s original intent was to pursue his creative talent in either graphic design or architecture, but he eventually settled into a business degree. Through this, he is allowed to explore his creative side while engaging his passion for people.

andrew + 616

While searching for internships, Andrew was introduced to 616 Development through a family member. Urban living and real estate have always been a huge interest of his, making an apprenticeship with the 616 Tribe the perfect opportunity. Andrew first met members of the Tribe in March before being welcomed as a part of the team.

Andrew has developed a strong desire to become a part of the Grand Rapids community, which he feels can be fulfilled through his position. Andrew is excited to work with other members of the 616 Tribe to continue fostering growth in and around Grand Rapids.