The Well House Model
Well House provides safe, affordable housing to the homeless. We recognize that each individual has their own unique needs and challenges, and that a “one size fits all” approach is often a barrier to housing.
At Well House, we believe the solution to homelessness is housing. Our model is simple: we purchase vacant, boarded-up houses and bring them back to life. We move in our neighbors who need housing the most: those who are living on the streets or in emergency shelters. Whenever possible, we hire our tenants to help with the rehabilitation of the houses.
We are so grateful to all of our supporters: donors, volunteers, elected officials, service providers, tenants and other community members. With your help, we can continue to grow our organization and expand this crucial work! As of today, we own 14 houses and have moved 184 people off the street since January 2013.
A Message From Tami Vandenberg – Executive Director of Well House
I have important news to share with you: I have decided to step aside as Well House Executive Director effective April 12, 2018.
Changes like this are always difficult, but the future of Well House has never been brighter. The Well House staff is strong, committed, passionate, seasoned and smart. The Well House board is dedicated, driven, vivacious and strategic. Our base of support is large and diverse. Our mission and vision could not be more relevant.
This has been a challenging decision for me, but the timing feels right for me personally and also for Well House. It’s been over five years since I became Executive Director to see if I could keep the organization from closing its doors.
We’ve grown from a struggling grassroots nonprofit, to a leader in the movement to end homelessness in Grand Rapids. Thanks to your support, we have shown that even those who have been forgotten or written off can succeed in housing. Our budget has increased by 10 times in the last five years, and we have shown that blighted homes can be saved and brought back to life. Our success has far surpassed what I dreamed of five years ago.
Moving forward, we will continue to face many challenges – the cost of purchasing houses has increased dramatically, many of our key partners are facing funding cuts, more of our neighbors face displacement and homelessness as rent continues to increase. But my faith and confidence in the Well House staff and board convince me that we’ll be in good hands.
It was the work of our staff that moved 190 people off the streets in the last five years. It was their vision that helped us purchase and renovate 11 additional houses and transform 7 vacant lots into food-growing spaces. It was their leadership that employed 70 tenants on our farm or on our housing rehabs.
My greatest regret in making this move is the prospect of missing my amazing colleagues – the Well House staff, board, donors, funders, supporters, partners. And of course I will greatly miss all of our tenants – some of the most resilient, brave, and compassionate people I know. But I firmly believe this group will continue to push forward the movement to end homelessness in Grand Rapids for years to come.
I’m not going far, and very much intend to stay engaged in housing advocacy for many years to come. Nothing will give me greater pride and joy than to watch Well House grow, with your help, into a solution for so many more of our neighbors. Housing is the solution to homelessness – and we can end homelessness in Grand Rapids.
Onward and Forward –
Tami VandenBerg, Executive Director, Well House