Marquette Mayor to appoint city commissioner to task force

Kim Frost of Lutheran Social Services speaks to the Marquette City Commission about the Homelessness Task Force during the commission meeting held Monday night. The commission unanimously authorized Marquette Mayor Jenna Smith to appoint a city commissioner to the task force for a one-year term. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE –With unanimous commission approval on Monday, a member of the Marquette City Commission will be appointed to a one-year term on the Homelessness Task Force by Marquette Mayor Jenna Smith.

“I see this as a pretty big opportunity for the city of Marquette and other partners to work together,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the task force comes up with and how we can help as a city. This is a huge challenge, but it’s also a big opportunity for our community.”

The task force, which aims to “create sustainable resources to resolve housing crises through awareness, prevention and local solutions,” will consist of local service providers, citizens and representatives from local municipalities who meet for bimonthly meetings, task force organizers said in a letter.

“I think it’s important to remember that the scope of homelessness far exceeds just Room at the Inn,” said Kim Frost of Lutheran Social Services, who wrote the letter inviting the commission to appoint a member to the task force. “I think we need to remember there’s other shelters. There’s Janzen (House), there’s the Women’s Center, but in addition to that, homelessness includes a lot of ‘doubled up’ people who are living with other people … Walmart has people living there right now in their cars. And it also includes a lot of working families … After working in homelessness for close to 30 years, I have never had the number of phone calls that I did this summer from families who are experiencing housing crises. They’re working families and they are no longer able to afford housing in this area.”

With a growing number of area residents struggling to afford housing, Frost said she was glad to see the city’s willingness to participate in the task force.

“Marquette is such a stellar city and we need to be stellar in how we handle this issue about our residents,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the participation of the commission. And I’m hoping when a commissioner is appointed, it’s someone who will be super passionate and progressive.”

Commissioners said they are also happy to see the task force move forward and hope solutions can be developed to help those who are facing homelessness.

“This is an incredibly exciting development. I think it’s clear by now that our current approach to homelessness in the city of Marquette is not sustainable and is not working,” Commissioner Evan Bonsall said. “We can’t afford to keep sweeping this situation under the rug any longer. I’m looking forward to hearing the task force’s recommendations and hopefully, finally taking some tangible action to address this issue.”

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal. net.


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