Local organization combating homelessness

MARQUETTE — Although often unseen in Marquette County, hundreds of residents are considered homeless.

In this week’s ABC 10 Feature, Melanie Palmer has the scoop on how many people are impacted in the area and how one organization is working to lower that number.

800 individuals in Marquette County are considered homeless, 200 of those are children.

“That number fluctuates year to year but unfortunately it’s not going down as quickly as we would like it to,” said Room at the Inn Warming Center Executive Director, Douglas Russell.

Walking the streets of Marquette, noticing homeless individuals can be more conspicuous than larger cities.

“Most of them try really hard to blend in, they don’t want to stand out because it draws attention to them and that is the last thing that they want,” said Russell.

The times have slightly changed from tent cities near railroad stations. “Here it’s not as visible because a lot of it is couch surfing,” said Room at the Inn Guest Advocate, Sarah Cagle.

One specific local non-profit organization that works to assist people in need on their journeys, has seen a change in their guests. “When we first started, we were dealing with a lot of folks who had problems with alcoholism. Now, the guests have gotten a lot younger, many of the guests are in their 20’s. They are dealing with narcotic addictions and mental illnesses,” said Russell.

While Northern Michigan University, job openings, or even a relationship can draw outsiders to the area, leaving can be an issue. “People come here to get a fresh start and it doesn’t work out so well and they don’t have the resources to get back home or get work, so they are here,” said Russell.

Many visitors that come to the Room at the Inn Warming Center are struggling with some inner demons. “A lot of mental illnesses, a lot of drug and alcohol addictions, a lot of people that have experienced significant trauma either recently or in their life,” said Cagle.

For one guest who is battling cancer and was recently diagnosed with epilepsy, this organization has helped tremendously. “They give me a place to sleep and they have food for us every day, it helps a lot. I’m not able to work so any kind of resources or help that is available here are greatly appreciated,” said Room at the Inn Guest, Michael Lamb.

Other than providing food and a roof over guest’s heads, Room at the Inn also assists by referring these individuals to agencies including; Community Action and the Marquette Housing Commission, tracking down needed government documentation such as a social security card, and supplying aid when searching for employment or healthcare.

“Many of the guests when they come to us, they don’t have government documentations and it’s very hard to fill out an application without that documentation. Our first step with them is chasing that documentation, making sure that they get that,” said Russell.

With this organization serving two-thousand meals a month, the communities support is always needed. If you don’t have time for volunteering, there are other ways to help.

“Whether it’s a donation of money or you’re getting ready for spring cleaning and you’re getting rid of some of your winter coats. We focus on outer wear here at the center, like coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. We like to make those available to our guests, if they need one. Whatever comes to the Warming Center is available to anyone for free,” said Russell.

Donating furniture is also useful, for the guests who will soon be moving on to independent living. “It’s great, I’m glad this place is here to help people, who really need help. There are a lot of people in Marquette County who don’t get a lot of help because they don’t have resources that are available,” said Lamb.

For the past 10 years, the goal of the Room at the Inn has been to provide opportunities for guests during life transitions. If you know of someone who is currently facing these struggles, it is encouraged to stop by the Room at the Inn Warming Center on Washington Street in Marquette.