‘Homeless, not housed’: Coalition members discuss housing issues for those in need

Katrice Perkins/Daily Mining Gazette Copper Country Homeless Prevention Coalition members discuss ways to reach those who need its services at the coalition's meeting on Thursday.

The Copper Country Homeless Prevention Coalition remembered board chair, John Niemela, Thursday at the first meeting following his death.

The meeting was unofficially led by Brian Foreman of the Child and Family Services of the Upper Peninsula. He began the meeting expressing the hole that Niemela’s death left because “he did a lot” and held many positions.

“We are lost,” Foreman said. “Filling his shoes will be an interesting task.”

Those present also spoke their thoughts and feelings about Niemela. He was warmly referred to throughout the meeting.

Mary Niemela, of the the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home, proposed that the coalition send flowers to John’s family. His funeral is said to be this coming Tuesday.

She discussed John’s efforts in the community, including Hope House and his plans to get the rotating shelter started.

She mentioned the lack of volunteers and places willing to be a part of the shelter, as well as the overall challenge of getting volunteers for any project.

“It was difficult to ask for 150 volunteers from the community to come out and help with this when all of our nonprofits are struggling to get five volunteers to help with their agencies, said Mary. But everything that John did he did from his heart,” she added.

Foreman said the idea of having the rotating shelter has not ended. However, it caused a lot of discussions and some disagreements.

He mentioned that police think it would create an attraction for people to hang out. There was also confusion revolving around the number of people classified as homeless, 146.

Foreman said it scared people because there’s not that many on the street. He described it as a case of the people being “homeless but housed.” There are probably six to 12 people at most that are out on the street.

Even with the challenges, they all agree there’s still a need for a small shelter.

“It’s needed but doesn’t have to be as fancy as we’re thinking,” said Foreman.

There was no person on the Hope House committee in attendance to discuss who will take over John’s role and what’s to come with his planned shelter efforts.

With John’s passing, the coalition is left with the need of a chair, co-chair and secretary.

Other things discussed throughout the meeting include the pit count, Project Connect Homeless Initiative, hotel vouchers, how they can connect with people who need their services and restructuring of the board.