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RATI moves operations to Lakeview Arena

The Room at the Inn Warming Center in downtown Marquette is pictured. RATI activities have been relocated to Lakeview Arena in Marquette because of the COVID-19 outbreak. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Room at the Inn has relocated its shelter operations to Lakeview Arena at 401 E. Fair Ave. in Marquette.

RATI Executive Director Nick Emmendorfer, in a March 19 Facebook post, asked for the community’s help in finding a space large enough to operate as a temporary emergency shelter and the city of Marquette came forth, offering the Lakeview Arena.

RATI guests typically eat and gather at the RATI Warming Center along West Washington Street in Marquette before moving to a local church for shelter in the evenings, but the arena allows guests to better adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“We did that because we need more space and we wanted to make sure that we could maintain social distancing between all the guests. And the arena provides the space to do that, so a huge ‘thank you’ to the city of Marquette and (Marquette City Manager) Mike Angeli for helping us set that up,” Emmendorfer said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order that temporarily closed dine-in services at restaurants also presented challenges for RATI, as guests ate meals prepared by staff and volunteers at the Warming Center kitchen.

Food is still being prepared in the Warming Center’s kitchen, but it’s brought over to guests at Lakeview Arena.

While guests previously went to the Warming Center before heading off to the rotating shelters, they are now spending a majority of their day at the arena.

“Right now, it is nice that everything is under one roof,” Emmendorfer said. “They stay pretty much all day at Lakeview Arena and they’re allowed to leave if they have to go for a grocery store run, the pharmacy, or if they have a doctor’s appointment or they have a job.”

Beds are spaced out within the arena and partitions offer guests privacy while also helping them to maintain their six-foot distance, he added.

“The guests appreciate having more space and therefore more privacy,” Emmendorfer said. “But one thing I’ve been doing is meeting with all the guests as a group and discussing why we’re under these new operations and what practices we want in place to maintain good hygiene. And then also asking them for feedback, so we can make sure that during this time, they are as comfortable as possible, because it’s a little bit of scary time for everyone right now.”

Extra sanitation measures are being taken in the temporary shelter space, such as temperature checks of guests before each meal and before bed.

Guests are also asked to use hand sanitizer as they go through the food line, he added.

When the executive order first went into effect, multiple local businesses contributed to RATI, including Babycakes, the Marquette Food Co-op, Elizabeth’s Chophouse, Vango’s, Iron Bay and Third Street Bagel.

“There was an immediate response from the community, which was no surprise here in Marquette,” Emmendorfer said. “I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am to live in this community and have that kind of support.”

But donations are still needed. A list of the shelters’ current needs can be found on the Room at the Inn Facebook page.

“We want to limit our volunteers right now so we don’t expose guests or the community to risk of exposure of the coronavirus,” he said. “But we do still need donations, so if people want to make monetary donations, they can do so on our website roomattheinn.org. And if people want to bring in-kind donations such as dry goods, snacks, juices, toilet paper, toiletries, anything along those lines, they’re welcome to bring it and drop it off at Lakeview Arena. They can come to the side door closest to Lake Superior.”

New operations at the arena have been running smoothly and for the time being, RATI is trying to maintain a positive attitude, Emmendorfer said.

“Right now, we’re just trying to maintain the bottom line of providing shelter and providing food and meals for them,” he said. “And just the same as everyone else, we’re looking for that day when the executive order is lifted and we can go back to a sense of normalcy.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at tcarey@miningjournal.net.

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