Heartside Ministry’s New Executive Director Knows Homelessness Firsthand

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

heartsideTendai Masiriri: “We subscribe to radical hospitality. In other words, we meet people where they are and try to improve their lives.” Tendai Masiriri personally knows what it's like to live on the streets, fending for himself day in and out in his homeland of Zimbabwe. His unsettling days of survival serves as a motivating reason for becoming Heartside Ministry's new executive director.

Masiriri was 15 years old when his father died in 1985, leaving him no other choice but to try to care for himself, he said.

"I didn't have anything," said Masiriri. "I know what it means when people are struggling and want to get out of it. They have the same desires as anybody else. They hope like anybody else.

"Basically that translated into why I became a social worker."

His professional background in caring for the needs of others includes, but is not limited to, working as director of interdisciplinary operations for Lifecircles-Pace in Holland; vice president for global operations, and earlier, director of regional operations for Bethany Global LLC in Grand Rapids; and program coordinator and outpatient therapist for Arbor Circle Corp.

Masiriri also is a Seventh-day Adventist minister.

Glorifying God in deeds

"The love of Christ constrains my faith," said Masiriri. "I totally believe that the greatest motivation is the ability to do something greater than ourselves. That's really glorifying God in our deeds and not just our words. We subscribe to radical hospitality. In other words, we meet people where they are and try to improve their lives."

Heartside Ministry was founded by the Rev. George Beukema in 1983, and is one of several urban ministries based in the Heartside District, an area in downtown Grand Rapids that's bounded approximately by Fulton and Wealthy streets and Grandville and Lafayette avenues.

It's an area where there is a heavy concentration of homeless people who are often struggling with problems caused by chronic poverty, alcoholism, unemployment, mental and physical health challenges or acute traumas that may be due to the loss of a spouse, health crisis, parental physical abuse when they were younger, veterans grappling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and just living on the streets.

Looking to the future

Masiriri said earlier plans to purchase and renovate the former Tini Bikini Bar and Grill at 78 S. Division Ave., when the Rev. Andy DeBraber was Heartside Ministry's executive director, have been scrubbed and replaced with plans to eventually move the nonprofit faith-based ministry from its current location at 54 S. Division Ave. to 200 S. Division Ave.

"We're working on capital campaign for the building at 200 S. Division," said Masiriri.

Masiriri said he intends to enhance some of Heartside Ministry's multi-prong programs.

His goals include developing an art therapy program to help people deal with trauma, depression, anxiety and mental health and substance abuse disorders.

"I want it to be a multipronged approach that affects mental health," said Masiriri. "It will be like any interdisciplinary approach to services."

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Masiriri said he wants to track the reasons why its general equivalency degree program is successful and help those who've earned their GED to prepare for college.

"We want to make sure we understand what makes it possible for us to help people achieve those results, what are the variables in our individualized programs," said Masiriri. "Is it because we take more time to help them study or is it because of the frequency of study? We don't know exactly what those factors are."

Heartside Ministry will continue to host its alcoholic and narcotic support groups, art studio and gallery, GED tutoring and GED testing center, confidential counseling, dual recovery for those struggling with mental illness and addictions, housing assistance, free legal help, therapeutic pottery sessions, a computer resource center, writers' circle, offer worship services and Sunday school and housing assistance.


Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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