New award for volunteer service to homeless

A central U.P. group says it’s about to change how Marquette and Alger Counties view the homeless population. They have information about the homeless community that’s more accurate than anything the two counties have had before, but that’s not all they have.

The Alger Marquette Continuum of Care will present extensive new data about homeless residents Monday morning at the Peter White Public Library, but the presentation will also reach area residents on a more personal level.

“We reached out to Northern Michigan University,” AMCAB housing services director Amy Lerlie said. “Christine Flavin and Josh LeClair, actually, came onto the project as well. They were able to interview and speak with individuals and families who are homeless that were willing to share their story.”

Their short documentary, “Homeless: Leaving the Wilderness”, will also be presented Monday morning.

So will a new award for outstanding volunteer service on behalf of the homeless, named after Room at the Inn founder Helen McCormick. “Without her, we would not have that revolving shelter, so we just felt that the most appropriate name for the award was the Helen McCormick Award, and we will be doing this annually,” Marquette Housing Commission executive director Sharon Kivikko said.

McCormick was surprised and touched to hear about the award, saying that plenty of credit for starting Room at the Inn also needs to be given to other people. “I met Pastor Chris Kostelansky at a Continuum of Care meeting, and then I met Larry Ziomkowski,” she said. “He’s the director of Catholic Charities (of the Upper Peninsula). Pastor Chris and Larry did most of the training of volunteers, and of course, the help of God. I kept saying, ‘if God wants this to happen, it’ll happen’.”

Room at the Inn recently bought the former Mueller’s Pizza and Dano’s Pizza shop in Marquette to serve as a new warming center. The doors aren’t open just yet, but McCormick says they should open sometime within the next few months.

“Now we need to take it to the Planning Commission and get it approved, and then it goes to the City Commission,” she said. “We also have to get approval from the Health Department, and that’s all in the works.”

McCormick says the goal is to have the warming center open sometime in March.