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Grand Rapids Homes for All met last Friday night at Baxter Community Center to talk about the housing crisis and gentrification in Grand Rapids. In this meeting, residents had an opportunity to join the Tenant Union, brainstorm ideas about housing solutions in Grand Rapids, and share their stories in preparation for the upcoming City Commission meeting. Amy Carpenter talked to several people who have experienced housing insecurity or homelessness and they asked her to share their stories.
Minnie Dentmond grew up in Mississippi. “I had to drop out of school when I was 15 to help my grandmother, Ella Lee Dentmond. She couldn’t talk anymore. I had to lip read [to find out what she wanted] and help her.” Dentmond said she started working the same year she dropped out of school. “Down there I chopped cotton. I raised my five kids by myself.”
When her grandmother died, Dentmond moved to Grand Rapids at age 31. She said, “I was in a house for 25 years. Then the landlady’s husband came over, and I didn’t know who he was. He said I had to clean the limbs out of my yard. I told him to go clean his own yard!”
Dentmond told her landlady she just hadn’t recognized the man who was speaking to her that way, but “after that she told me I had to get out, she didn’t care where I went. That’s not right.”
Given the rising prices in Grand Rapids, many property owners are evicting long-term tenants to either sell to corporate landlords or to rent to college students and other higher-paying tenants.
“I’ve been on my own since I was 15," concluded Dentmond. "Now I go to my daughter’s house to get something to eat.” Dentmond currently identifies herself as homeless, and attended the meeting with her daughter Carla.
Nearing my 5th full decade, I've watched my children grow without school into interested, interesting, whole people. A child of hippie-ish public servants, I grew up surrounded by Christian conservatives, so I have developed the skill of listening to near-superpower levels. Not your typical suburban mom, I once had a cat who chased after the deer in the back wood -- she was not unlike me.