New Documentary Highlights Housing Crisis in Kent County

New Documentary Highlights Housing Crisis in Kent County
Finding Home: America’s Housing Crisis in Kent County highlights three different families as they face housing insecurity in our community

A new documentary in partnership with KConnect, Housing Kent, and Candor Media portrays the reality of the housing crisis in Kent County, especially for Black children and families. 

The documentary, entitled Finding Home: America’s Housing Crisis in Kent County, follows the stories of three different families as they face housing insecurity as well as the work that KConnect did over a period of three years to build a system that addresses the issue. The film features the following interviewees: 

Sergio Cira-Reyes
Urban Core Collective

Lynne Ferrell
Frey Foundation 

Santiago Gayton
Formerly Hispanic Center of Western Michigan

Joe Jones
Formerly Urban League of West Michigan

Christina Keller
Cascade Engineering

Salvador Lopez

Pamela Parriott
Former KConnect President

Eureka People
Housing Kent 

Wende Randall
Kent County Essential Needs Task Force

Cheryl Schuch
Family Promise 

Adnoris “Bo” Torres
Formerly Hispanic Center of Western Michigan

Mark Woltman

Finding Home highlights key data from a KConnect analysis in 2018 that revealed that 1 in 6 African Americans were in the homeless system in Kent County compared to 1 in 130 White residents. (Updated data can be sourced from Housing Kent.) In addition, a recent examination of U.S. census data found that Kent County ranked near the bottom when comparing homeownership rates among Black and White households. The gap between the White homeownership rate (76%) and Black homeownership rate (36%) is 40 points. This gap places Kent County at 144th out of 149 comparable counties across the nation, the 5th worst. (In the documentary, it is listed as the 4th worst in the country, however, it is using previously available data.) 

The film follows the stories of Sharlietta and her family, Alicia and her family, and David and Susan. 

Sharlietta brought her family to Kentwood when her son was born and experienced health problems. Following an eviction, Sharlietta found her family homeless and ultimately had to work five jobs to keep them securely housed. Shockingly, Sharlietta made $60,000 annually and still found herself and her family living in a hotel. 

Alicia lives in northern Kent County and was working 18 hour days to keep her family safely housed. After a battle with drug addiction and an eviction, Alicia became homeless with her family and found them all living in a van in her brother’s driveway.

David and Susan met at a local homeless shelter in Grand Rapids and have stayed together. They currently live in their vehicle and while they’re both applying for employment, David is having to panhandle to pay for gas and food. Susan was forced to put her kids up for adoption and is waiting for them to turn 18 so that she can see them again. 

Finding Home also dives deeply into the work that KConnect did to help the community build a better system to address the housing crisis in Kent County. The result of the organization’s work was the development of a Community Plan and the creation of Housing Kent, the backbone organization for the Housing Stability Alliance which is made up of over 130 individuals and organizations dedicated to creating an equitable housing system in our community. 

You can watch the full documentary here

KConnect is Michigan’s only recognized Collective Impact organization that focuses on convening cross-sector partners to address unacceptable achievement gaps from prenatal to career for families living in Kent County. Using data to inform the work, KConnect develops and aligns to strategies that create an equitable community for all regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or residence. The organization has served the greater Grand Rapids community for ten years and continues to be a nationally recognized model for creating processes and solutions to society’s most complex problems.

Housing Kent is a 501 (c)3 organization that supports the work of the Housing Stability Alliance, which is a network of 130 individuals and public and private organizations, working toward a housing system that works for all residents of Kent County. We elevate, align, and coordinate multi-sector strategies to ensure that quality affordable housing can be a reality for all individuals, across all income levels. Our mission is to increase access to affordable housing, dissolve homelessness, and eliminate racial disparities in the Kent County housing system.

Candor Media is a bilingual independent media organization dedicated to local and regional accountability journalism in Michigan. Their mission is to produce, foster, and promote investigative journalism through original and collaborative reporting for the betterment of our communities. Candor’s goal is to increase the number of authentically told stories about and for people of color and marginalized communities from a place of understanding.

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