Extensive new homelessness survey

The Alger Marquette Continuum of Care is a group working as part of a statewide plan to end homelessness in Michigan by 2016. The continuum is made up of businesses, individual people that have at one time been homeless, and a wide range of service agencies.

“Mental health services, physical disability supports, domestic violence,” AMCAB housing services director Amy Lerlie said. “All of these agencies have come together in a very comprehensive fashion to provide wraparound services for our homeless population.”

The continuum has gathered comprehensive data about the homeless population. Members say it’s the most accurate information about the homeless community that Marquette and Alger Counties have ever had.

“We have gone out on the streets and located people, not only on the streets, but in shelters,” Marquette Housing Commission executive director Sharon Kivikko said. “We’ve been able to ask them information, and our homeless individuals have been so wonderful to be able to give us some information.”

The Room at the Inn shelter program has begun for the winter season. Room at the Inn recently bought the former Mueller’s Pizza and Dano’s Pizza building on West Washington Street in Marquette, and it’ll soon become a warming center for homeless residents.

Continuum of Care members say that with their new effort to collect data, they now have hard evidence to support beliefs they’ve had for years about the people that the new center will serve.

“Typically, the story of homelessness in Marquette and Alger Counties, at least for us, revolves around a loss of employment, illness, family tragedy, overwhelming expenses that simply can’t be met,” Lerlie said.

“We haven’t really realized that we have homeless (residents)”, Kivikko said. “We assumed that families were taking care of folks, or that the weather was too harsh to actually have people living out in tents and shacks in the woods, but that is truly happening.”

The Continuum of Care will present its new data on Tuesday, November 12th at 9:30 a.m. at the Peter White Public Library.