Fire Chief John Lehman said he hopes to continue the Homeless Outreach Team after the pandemic ends.
Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman is most proud of the Homeless Outreach Program that was started in an effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. When the homeless became sick they needed implementation of a new program that allowed the sick to isolate while undergoing quarantine. Safety threats prompted Grand Rapids leaders to make changes that would keep everyone safe, including the homeless community.
Firefighters and police officers establish relationships with the homeless to connect them with Social Services, Substance Abuse Assistance, Mental Health Assistance and other resources.
The fire chief also discussed the future of continuing the Homeless Outreach Program even after the pandemic ends.
Spartan Newsroom Reporter Sarah Benner spoke with John Lehman, the fire chief of the city of Grand Rapids, about future careers in the fire department and how COVID-19 is impacting his job.
Here’s an overview of his comments, edited for space and clarity.
- On how COVID-19 impacted the Fire Chief Department:
COVID has taken a big operation toll on the operation, when we don’t have the bodies to fill the seats it impacts us in a large way. We were able to get through it by working with the labor and union to relax some work rules. Counting on the fact that all our employees were coming in working overtime shifts and working extra duty to fill in for those vacancies of those that were off sick. Covid adds a stressor.
- Most Important Impact made as a community leader
Establishment of the Homeless Outreach Team. Help educate and provide assistance to the homeless population and to the shelter operations during the height of COVID to make sure that we could be looked after and protected. We had to create quarantine shelters, and have since progressed to a team that is made up of 14 individuals. Proud that we have had a large hand in implementing. During this budget cycle we should find out if we can continue that team into the future.