Coleman addresses needs of the vulnerable as new department lead
Kim Coleman, the new city of Lansing human relations and community services department director, realizes the weight of the role she accepted. Coleman’s team is responsible for helping to meet the needs of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents and communities.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity,” said Coleman.
That opportunity may carry even more responsibility in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I see our job as helping to facilitate the process of finding assistance and solutions for our residents wherever it is necessary,” she said.
Coleman replaces Joan Jackson Johnson, who retired after a Plante Moran audit revealed conflicts of interest in how she allocated the approximately $1.6 million set aside annually to serve the needy in the community.
As part of her role, Coleman will allocate the 1.25% of Lansing’s general fund dollars set aside for basic human services.
“We’re proud of the fact that we put aside some dollars for those in need in the city of Lansing,” said Lansing Mayor Andy Schor. “We are unique in doing that and proud of it, and this department will lead that effort.”
The new budget doesn’t start until July. In the meantime, Coleman is working on shoring up staff and working on ways to identify community needs and resources.
“We are figuring out how we can help be a part of the various coalitions that are working together to help meet the many different needs in our community,” said Coleman.
Some of that work includes collaborations with groups that help feed the hungry, give away book bags and keep the homeless sheltered.
“We have staff that is working on that issue. Their goal is to make sure that those people are not out on the street,” she said.
Coleman previously worked as an executive director for the Grand Rapids Bar Association, the Single Parent Family Institute and the downtown Lansing branch of the YMCA. She also chairs the Ingham County Department of Human Services board of directors.
Coleman said she has valued the opportunity she’s had to impact many lives throughout her career. She said she has been inspired by many of the organizations and people she’s worked for and with over the years, but one story in particular sums up her passion for her career.
“While I was heading up the downtown Lansing YMCA, a boy’s troublesome behavior was on the verge of forcing his removal from the organization,” she said. “But then when I got a chance to meet him and his family, I realized how much he needed the Y. To this day when I see him, it just warms my heart because he’s done so well and he tells me frequently, you know, the impact that the Y had on his life. Those kinds of things, for me, makes it worth getting up in the morning.”
Coleman knows the city may not be able to reach everyone, but she said she subscribes to the idea that efforts are worth it even if they only help one person.
“It’s the reason why a whole lot of us keep coming back,” she said.
Maybe now, more than ever.