Homeless Awareness Month begins with community meal

MARQUETTE — A number of Upper Peninsula agencies and community leaders got together in Marquette Monday to spread the word about the issue of homelessness and what they can offer to those in the area who may be struggling.

To kick off the observance of National Homeless Awareness Month, members of the Alger-Marquette-Schoolcraft Continuum of Care brought both information and donated goods to the Salvation Army’s daily community meal.

“We wanted to bring the agencies out to those in need to connect them with services or basic needs that they may not be aware of or may learn more about,” said Sarah Fogaroli, Welcome Home Program Coordinator at Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Inc.

“Sometimes it’s tough to get stuff like, you know, shampoo and soap,” said Jason Parks, Alger Marquette Community Action Board Housing Resource Manager. “I mean, those are dollars that aren’t always readily available, so we want to give people stuff that they need and a warm meal and some information.”

Another goal of both the meal and the month in general is to show the community at large that the growing problem of homelessness does indeed exist in the Upper Peninsula.

“It’s harder here than it is, say, in the city,” said Michael Martin, program supervisor for the Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Voices for Youth program. “If you’re in Milwaukee, you can see all of the homeless people, and in Marquette, especially when it comes to young people, you can’t see them. They’re going couch hopping or they’re living out in the forest. So, you know, always remember that there are homeless people here. We have a 12 percent rate of homelessness just like any other place, it’s just that we don’t have as many people, so we can’t field it as fast. So, we just need all the help that we can get.”

Several other events are planned for this week, including a vigil walk in downtown Marquette and a public event on Wednesday morning at the Peter White Public Library where the Continuum of Care will reveal its homeless data for the year.