Letters to the Editor

Affordable housing needed

To the Journal editor:

I was surprised to read in the Nov.12 Mining Journal that the Grandview project will be, “the answer to the affordable housing shortage in Marquette.”

As board chair for Marquette’s homeless shelter, Room at the Inn, I know Grandview will help but is not the answer. We are grateful that two residents of our homeless shelter have been approved for apartments at Grandview, but we still have 15 people at our shelter.

I can assure you the need for affordable housing is much greater than what Grandview will provide. Our shelter guests (15 per night) represent a fraction of the need for affordable housing in Marquette. That need continues to expand for several reasons: 1. As rents rise and wages don’t, many residents find themselves priced out of apartments in the city.

2. The state housing voucher program is only effective where you have landlords willing to participate in the program, and Marquette has too few.

3. Individuals struggling with mental illness or addictions have fewer and fewer options for appropriate housing.

Our homeless shelter, Room at the Inn, is a rotating shelter, meaning 11 churches in the Marquette area have agreed to house homeless people for a week at a time. At the end of every week, the shelter moves to another church. This model is becoming harder and harder to sustain as it requires an army of volunteers to maintain. Every week, we need 400 hours of volunteer time.

The people we serve are the poorest of the poor and some suffer from mental illness and/or addiction problems. Seventy percent of our homeless come from Marquette County and another 25 percent from the Upper Peninsula.

In response to these housing challenges, and some of our own, Room at the Inn is currently exploring options for its shelter program. We now have a committee investigating acquiring a permanent shelter building. A permanent shelter will increase our capacity to provide services in addition to overnight shelter. We hope to have a permanent shelter plan to present to the community soon.

Housing the homeless in the U.P. is a necessity and is literally a life or death matter.

David Payant

Room at the Inn