For more than two decades, the former Holy Family Orphanage has sat idle alongside US-41, sticking out like a sore thumb on the Marquette skyline, but now it may finally be put to good use.
Gwinn resident Larry Stille is a 30% disabled veteran who was homeless at one time. He wants to renovate the property and convert it into housing for homeless veterans.
Larry’s family has some history with the orphanage. His mother attended secretary school there before NMU’s Jacobetti Complex was built. One of his grandmothers also lived in the orphanage for a while when she was a girl.
“Right now I really don’t have much going on in my life, so I kind of figured I’d look at this orphanage and see what I can do,” Stille said. “The Iron Mountain VA got wind of what I was doing. I wanted to turn it into low-income housing, and they said, ‘why not make it homeless veterans?’. I said, ‘jeez! I never thought about it; this is the first I ever heard about it’. I gave it about five seconds’ thought, and the case is closed.”
Larry is in the process of starting a nonprofit organization in order to access funding from the VA. The agency has $300 million available to assist homeless veterans both this year and next year. However, only nonprofit groups can access that funding. The nonprofit should be formed sometime in the next 6 months.
“It’ll be turning into one-bedroom units for homeless veterans, and it’s going to be transitional; it’s not going to be permanent,” he said. “A lot of it’s going to depend on the motivation of the veterans, and if they really understood how much the government is spending on these guys to get them back into the work force, I think it should work. I’m hoping.”
Larry will have to find 35% of the funding for the project on his own, and he hopes the community will help him out.
He made a down payment on the property in January to the Meranto Living Trust of Las Vegas. The property should be paid off shortly after Larry’s nonprofit is formed.
The trust is taking care of the orphanage’s taxes for Larry, and an official from the trust has told him that as long as he takes care of the property, they fully support what he’s doing.