MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The guests and staff who would normally be found at Room at the Inn/The Warming Center on Washington Street have been calling Lakeview Arena home for weeks. Because of community support and donations through organizations like United Way of Marquette County and West End Health Foundation, officials say they are working towards some positive goals.
“At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, there was uncertainty circulating throughout the community, especially for us non-profits,” said Nick Emmendorfer, executive director of Room at the Inn.
Emmendorfer said West End Health Foundation and United Way of Marquette County reached out immediately. Through the funds they were able to provide, Room at the Inn has been able to continue feeding, guests, buying cleaning supplies and keeping them housed safely at Lakeview Arena.
“During a catastrophe, everyone thinks about what’s going to happen in my everyday life? At Room at the Inn we know that there is a community of vulnerable citizens that are going to need help getting through COVID-19,” said Emmendorfer.
Room at the Inn relies heavily on donations to support its operating budget.
“Given the COVID-19 outbreak and all the uncertainty, agencies like ours have to project into the future what our donations are going to look like, so agencies like the United Way and West End Health Foundation stepping up, helps give us some breathing room,” Emmendorfer said.
When asked what RATI’s donation situation looks like currently, Nick Emmendorfer said they are consistent to where they have been in the past. He is anticipating a change in the level of donations going forward. He called their fundraising effort stable, for now.
“That just speaks to what a wonderful community we live in,” Emmendorfer continued.
Emmendorfer said the City of Marquette stepped up to provide Lakeview Arena as a temporary shelter for guests who would normally utilize the services of Room at the Inn. They plan on being there as long as the Executive Order remains in place.
The Salvation Army has been providing daily lunches for guests. Volunteers throughout the community have been providing dinners at night for the shelter.
“The fact that we get to go to work every day and know that volunteers in the community are taking care of that last meal of the day. That really is a breath of fresh air for us,” said Emmendorfer.
Emmendorfer said having the opportunity to provide shelter and give people the opportunity to social distance, has brought them to a point where they can help people focus on their housing goals.
“The first step in any community for addressing homelessness is providing a permanent shelter. It’s wonderful that for 13 seasons, the churches in our community have provided that, but Room at the Inn right now is screaming loud and clear it’s time we as a community step up and provide a permanent shelter so that individuals in our community that are vulnerable can have housing stability and focus on overcoming the barriers that prevent them from transitioning out of homelessness,” said Emmendorfer.
Emmendorfer started as Executive Director in February of 2019. Since then he’s been working towards an initiative to getting out of churches which serve as rotating temporary shelters and moving into a more permanent space. That comes in the form of renovating their current building on Washington Street, the warming center. The project would turn the upstairs three-bedroom apartment into a shelter. The idea is to take all Room at the Inn services and put them under one roof. Emmendorfer’s goal is to have the project done by the middle of October this year.
“If we can get more of a permanent shelter, we can spend more of our time focusing on individuals establishing housing goals, allowing us as administration and staff to not focus so much on what church are we staying at next week, who’s providing dinner, and those sort of things.”
Room at the Inn accepts financial donatins to help with their operating budget. They can be made online, through their Facebook page or by mailing in a check to their office at 347 Rock Street in Marquette.
“For in-kind donations, we’re serving daily continental breakfast. So any kinds of snacks, cereals, fruits, vegetables, milk, coffee paper products, those are always welcome at Room at the Inn,” said Emmendorfer. RATI serves 1,600 meals a month and housing about 25 individuals a night.