Approximately six years ago, discussion in Dickinson County started with respect to the possibility of a rotating homeless shelter in the Iron Mountain area. A couple of local clergy brought together a group of interested persons and the planning began.
The hope was that, in cooperation with area churches, a rotating homeless shelter could be developed to provide a warm meal and a warm bed to homeless people in the coldest months of the year. Light at the Inn (LATI) was created, based on the model used by similar shelters in Marquette (Room at the Inn), and Escanaba, (Hope at the Inn).
This initial model was designed to use Church buildings on a weekly rotating basis to provide shelter for those experiencing homelessness. The Shelter was open for 4 months of the year and could not provide services for families with under age children. There were four seasons of successful operation and then came COVID.
In the four years as a Rotating Shelter, Light at the Inn served: 102 Single individuals over a total of 561 nights. 2,083 bed nights in all were provided during that time through the cooperative efforts of 8 different churches and many, many volunteers.
The shift in operations due to COVID created an opportunity for LATI to re-define the organization as a gap-agency…filling the gaps in service that other agencies aren’t designed or able to handle. This includes:
evening and week-end emergency access to shelter through the local hotels or other diversion points
interim assistance between initial homelessness and resolution
referrals to prevention resources
possible assistance at the point of moving into permanent housing.
In 2020 and into 2021, LATI became a year round organization that could serve people experiencing homelessness by working as the Emergency After-Hours/Weekend Voucher agency for Dickinson and Iron County. This service is subsidized by the Community Action Agency of Marquette and we were finally able to help families with children. In the five months from May through September we served 60 adults and 17 children. There were more than 300 phone calls to LATI during that time. In addition to the 51 vouchers processed, LATI provided 65 additional hotel nights for situations that didn’t fit the Voucher program.
LATI continues to be operated by volunteers from the churches and the community who are dedicated to the mission of the organization. They have come up with some creative ideas for being of service, depending on the individual circumstances: Food bags, Personal care gift bags, transportation, moving assistance, resourcing for special needs. LATI has adapted to the current challenges and even though the circumstances change, we continue to believe that safe, secure housing is something everyone deserves. Our hope is to assist in making Homelessness rare, brief and one-time only. We are a Spirit driven organization which maintains the dignity of all human beings and respects the value and resourcefulness and gifts of everyone with whom we talk.