Local counties plan homeless awareness activities


Trinity Carey

Three counties in the Upper Peninsula are planning special events for Homeless Awareness Month throughout November to raise awareness about issues that lead to homelessness.

The Alger Marquette Schoolcraft Continuum of Care (AMSCoC) will host a number of events beginning with the Upper Peninsula Homeless Summit—an open panel discussion with formerly homeless guest speakers—at NMU from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2.

This year’s panel will allow individuals who have used the counties homeless services to discuss their experiences and perspectives, said Douglas Russell, Room At The Inn director.

“These campaigns, in the past, have been mostly focused on ‘here are the current numbers, here’s the data for homelessness.’ Beyond the data, here are the stories of the people and the agencies who are involved with helping them and how much of a difference that makes and what impact we’ve been having,” Russell said.

Another event on the list for Homeless Awareness Month is the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the former Holy Family Orphanage, now the Marquette Grandview, at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10.

“It’s a pretty big deal, new, affordable housing here in Marquette. We’re hoping that is going to have a very positive impact on people’s lives,” Russell said. “It’s income based, so we’re hoping some of our guests may in fact qualify to live there.”

A series of Public Awareness programs will be held at public libraries throughout the counties to further inform the community of homelessness in the U.P. and the services provided within the area.

The month of events will conclude with a Candlelight Walk from the Janzen House to The Room At The Inn Warming Center at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28. Upon arrival at the Warming Center, the Helen McCormick Homeless Volunteer of the Year Award will be awarded to one nominee from the community solicited by the AMSCoC.

Russell is hopeful this month of events will debunk some of the myths of homelessness and homeless individuals within the community.

“It’s an important month to help people understand—mostly, to help them understand—because we love nothing if not to stereotype. I recognize that is a part of the human condition, but the reality is that there are an awful lot of negative stereotypes about the homeless that are incredibly inaccurate and would probably lead many people to think poorly of them and leave it at that,” Russell said. “So part of my job everyday is to be an advocate and help people understand.”