UIX: Essential Needs Task Force is rethinking the way Kent County addresses poverty

Every morning in West Michigan, hundreds of thousands wake up in their own homes and enjoy a quick breakfast before heading out the door to work. Those comfortable enough to find it routine may even consider it a daily grind, but for many others without access to the same resources, it's a dream taken much less for granted.


The unemployed, homeless, and hungry have much more to worry about than the monotony of a 9 to 5. An eviction notice or power shut-off can severely disrupt stability at home, and when families have to choose between paying utility bills and affording food, it's hard to find hope.


For the many faced with that decision, the Essential Needs Task Force is a crucially supportive resource.


The ENTF seeks to provide all Kent County residents with access to service providers who specialize in transportation, nutritious food, efficient energy sources, employment and housing. While not a service provider itself, the organization plays a key role in connecting the dots, helping local service providers make the most of what they're doing.


Taking over for Traci Coffman, who previously guided the ENTF into a new era of using various data sources to augment strategic change, newly installed director Wende Randall brings over a decade of workforce development experience to the organization. And in her understanding of essential service provisions, it's not out of the question to be working herself out of a job.