Posts Tagged ‘Grand Rapids’

Because We Aren’t Meant to Do Life Alone. Grand Rapids Business Mentoring Connection

January 19, 2018 Leave a comment

On occasion, I post about how I mentor elementary school-aged boys with difficult family backgrounds.

The truth is that kids with hard family backgrounds are not the only ones who need mentors.

The quote in the photo from New City Initiative in Portland, Oregon is revealing in a lot of ways. Homelessness may, by and large, be a product of a lack of relationships.


Applying this statement to the regular working class person who isn’t in jeopardy of going homeless, a lot of our problems could be stymied by the presence of authentic relationships.


The truth is, we aren’t meant to do this life alone.

Yet we so often do just that.

As for me, although I am interacting with many people on any given work day, I find myself too often dealing with concerns, problems and frustrations in a vacuum.

I recall having a conversation with a friend of mine a while back, another business professional. He commented on how, although he knows a lot of people, he doesn’t have anyone that he regularly confides in. He doesn’t have “close friends”.

I think my friend is in good company with many others.

So then why so often do we find ourselves living in a vacuum?

My thoughts:

It is hard to be vulnerable with others.  Our tendency is to hide our imperfections.  We can brush aside the reality that we lack relationships by telling ourselves, or others “I just don’t have time“. I believe that is just a smokescreen for the real issues:

It is hard to admit our weaknesses, failures or shortcomings.

The bottom line: we need to be in authentic relationships.

We need mentors, confidants, people willing to walk along side us.

On the flip side, we need to be pouring into other people as well.

There are excellent resources in our community, I think of an excellent one like the Jandernoa Mentorship Program (JEM).  Unfortunately, I am sure JEM and other groups would readily admit, those resources are limited.


I hear this theme in my work life, in the business community, non-profit service, I hear this when I go to church: call it mentoring, discipleship, or “sharpening iron” – we need to be in authentic relationships to build each other up.

So, I decided to do something about it.

Yesterday I created a Group on LinkedIn: Grand Rapids Business Mentoring Connection

I created this Group simply to provide a forum to make it easy for people to connect in meaningful ways.

1. Professionals who recognize their need for a mentor;

2. Professionals who are established in their career and are willing to share their experiences and failures with others, at any level; and

3. Professionals seeking authentic community and peer relationships.

My goal isn’t that Members of this group have any formal obligation. My hope is that those who join this group are willing to add value to others and connect on a personal level.


So my question and charge to you reading this post:

Who are you pouring into?


Established Professionals: You have something to offer. Consider joining this group and being available to connect with peers, younger professionals on whatever time you have available in your life.

Younger Professionals: Join this Group. Get others to join. Reach out and ask for help. You are the future leaders, but you cannot succeed in life on your own.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka


Michigan Law Update: The Neighborhood and Commercial Corridor Food Initiative. Community Revitalization Now Includes Downtown Grocery Stores.

January 17, 2018 Leave a comment


Several years ago ago I took my family to New York City. (and took the below photo).

Even amidst the chaos of protecting my 4 young children from darting out in2015-11-26-13-04-02to oncoming traffic – we absolutely loved the City.


We loved the walk-ability of City life –

that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.


I love downtown Grand Rapids.


(Below, photo I took this morning from my office)

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs to continue to support growth in downtown grocery stores.


This is not a novel concept.

There has been recent exciting development in Grand Rapids on this front – see Meijer opening a grocery store on Bridge Street.

Also, Russo’s International Market opened last year as well.



“Neighborhood and Commercial Corridor Food Initiative” – Public Act 229

Last March, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative.” (re-named “Neighborhood and commercial corridor food initiative”)

This Bill intended to provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

Specifically, HB 4027 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program


Passed into Law

On December 28th this House Bill was given immediate effect and assigned as Public Act 229 . 


The law provides incentives to “new neighborhood” food initiatives. That is why, per the new law:

a new neighborhood and commercial corridor food initiative…is not eligible for a community revitalization incentive if it is located within 1 mile of an existing retail supermarket, grocery store, or produce market…that offers unprocessed USDA-inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”


Hopefully this law will spur development of urban grocery stores in Grand Rapids, and beyond to places like Detroit. There is wonderful community development work going on right now in Detroit, as the article below highlights.


Healthy Food Options – Essential for Urban Living

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living. Check out this recent article from Non-Profit Quarterly about Communities of Color Developing Residents-Owned Groceries.

According to the Article:

“Grocery stores…often anchor “neighborhood economies, recirculating local revenues through wages and nearby businesses. They can also be neighborhood hubs, where people go to buy good food as well as employment centers and sources of community pride.”

“Alas, the lack of these hubs can be damaging, notes Malik Yakini, who directs the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Yakini is one of a host of activists across the country who are working to foster community ownership of food businesses in communities of color.”


We should be encouraging Malik Yakini and others and supporting community ownership of food businesses in communities of color. Hopefully the new law will attract such local ownership.


Parting Thoughts

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. In Grand Rapids, we are confronted everywhere with the need for Affordable Housing. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan honestly asking the question: “How am I building a better community?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka


More Updates on Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis

June 2, 2017 4 comments

Today is a beautiful day in downtown Grand Rapids. The photo below actually from yesterday. There is something about the sun that just puts me in a good mood.

A few days ago I did not have a sunny disposition. I was in court during a landlord/tenant docket. I’ll be honest – it was a depressing scene.  Many of the people in the courtroom were in a sad condition – one lady was visibly intoxicated.IMG_1570

Grand Rapids’ Housing Crisis

This morning I read an article on how the Rental Housing Market Leads to Homelessness in Grand Rapids

Clearly, Grand Rapids, and other parts of the State and Nation have an affordable housing crisis. I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

A Community Problem – requires Community Collaboration

Recently Mel Trotter Ministries announced that it was partnering with 3:11 Youth Housing and the NAACP to provide housing for homeless males ages 18-24.

This effort could not have happened without collaboration between community stakeholders. It also couldn’t have happened without real estate owners willing to put “purpose above profit”.

There are other examples of social enterprises taking action to address affordable housing. One community partner is Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

It will take all community stakeholders to do their part – businesses, churches, government, and non-profits.

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?
Legal Updates – Bills and Lawsuits.


A few months back I wrote about a Michigan House Bill introduced that would repeal Michigan’s prohibition on rent control. This Bill seemed to be a “gut response” to the affordable housing crisis that we are facing in Michigan and all across the United States.

Other local governments across the U.S. are exploring legislative avenues to address the housing crisis.

A few days ago, Representative Stephanie Chang introduced a few other Bills on Affordable Housing.

On May 31, 2017 House Bill 4686 was introduced that would allow local government  to “adopt an ordinance to limit the rent paid by senior citizens and individuals with a disability to 50% of their household incomes.”

Tie-barred to that Bill was House Bill 4687  which would prohibit local government from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing “an ordinance or resolution that would have the effect of  controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing private resident.”

Representative Chang also spoke on the issue of Affordable Housing at a Detroit Housing Summit a few days ago at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.


DOJ sues City of Jacksonville for refusing to allow development of permanent supportive housing for individuals with disabilities.

You can check out the press release from yesterday – Where Cities Can Get in Trouble with Fair Housing Laws

Yesterday, the Department of Justice issued a Press Release concerning an agreement it reached with the City of Jacksonville, Florida. Apparently, the DOJ sued the City concerning “allegations that the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it refused to all ow the development of permanent supportive housing for individuals with disabilities in its Springfield neighborhood.”

As part of the settlement, the City has agreed to “establish a $1.5 million grant to develop permanent supportive housing in the city for people with disabilities.”



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka



Non-Profit provides Legal Advocacy to Homeless Victims of Crimes

September 30, 2014 Leave a comment

I just read this article about a non-profit legal advocacy group helping Homeless Victims of Crimes

I always find it exciting to hear about groups or individuals who are truly trying to identify an unmet need in society and then run full speed ahead to meet that need, particularly for the oppressed and vulnerable in society.

In Grand Rapids I think of Goodwill of Greater GR providing job placements to people in GR with employment barriers – I was doing a mock interview with an individual who was in Goodwill’s job placement program – at the time I conducted his mock interview he had just got out of serving 15 years in prison – talk about a guy with employment barriers!

I also think of Wedgewood Christian Service’s Manasseh Project caring for victims of sex trafficking here in West Michigan. and HQ (twitter feed – providing for runaway and homeless youth who fall through the crack.

I can’t help but mention Mel Trotter Ministries, providing for the hurting, homeless and drug addicted in Greater Grand Rapids.

The above article resonates with me as a lawyer – to care and advocate for the most vulnerable in our society. Like the article says, homeless and runaways are more likely to be victims of crimes, and also more likely not to report those crimes.

In Grand Rapids, like everywhere, there is always more work to be done for the vulnerable people in our community.




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How to Talk to Your Kids About Homelessness

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Great Blog Post by Mel Trotter Ministries


How to Talk to Your Kids About Homelessness.

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