More about this photo later in the post. Until then…
THE ISSUE THAT KEEPS coming up in informal discussions across the city is… the homeless. We’ve written about it here multiple times and each time the problem seems to have gotten worse.
Our city leaders can acknowledge the problem, and agree that something needs to be done, but beyond that they have no singular solution.
Programs like Room at the Inn, begun years ago as nighttime lodging in area churches, has grown to a program that provides a permanent location for temporary housing. One would hope that would be an effective way to provide the very minimum level of services for our indigent population.
One would hope. Unfortunately, the problem, and it is a problem, looks like it’s gotten too big for Room at the Inn, and every indication is that it will just get bigger. Our harsh winters are a fairly effective deterrent to a rush of newcomers, but now that it’s warming up, our homeless numbers are sure to rise.
So, we have a problem without an obvious solution. City officials have looked at how other communities have dealt with this issue only to discover… we’re all in the same boat. Just watch the news and you’ll see it’s happening everywhere.
Here’s a good place to point out that those who feel the homeless population presents a problem to the community are not altogether heartless. People become homeless for a variety of reasons, some beyond their control. Programs like Room at the Inn are supported by a large number of community members who feel a responsibility to help those less fortunate, regardless of how they got there.
It was estimated by someone close to the issue that about a third of our “street people” sincerely want to be productive members of society, as they once were. The others? Some are mentally ill, some have criminal intent, and some just want to be no part of anything that requires personal responsibility.
The problem is two-fold. One side is the fact that we have more and more people, including families, experiencing the debilitating effects of having no stable environment from which to lead a rewarding life. It’s a daily challenge when the best you can do for living quarters is a makeshift tent.
The other side of the issue is what we see when we drive past the RATI Warming Center or take a ride on the nearby bike path. The visuals of the homeless loitering in and around our busy downtown are a turn-off to visitors and residents alike. And business owners in the immediate area are forced to deal with those who aren’t there to do any actual business.
Another result of what we’ve done to address the problem is that of unintended consequences. Room at the Inn, and other services provided by already stretched local agencies, only serve to attract more homeless. The more you do, the more word gets around that Marquette’s a pretty good place to hang. I’ve heard it put another way, somewhat indelicately… feed them and they’ll never leave.
There’s also a shameless strategy called Greyhound Therapy. You simply provide bus tickets to the homeless that will take them to the location of their choice. Yes, it’s cold, but so are February nights in Marquette.
Programs like that at the Janzen House, where residents are expected to live up to certain standards, can serve as an example of how to do it right, but that requires a substantial financial commitment on the part of… somebody. Would you be interested in a tax increase to help secure housing for the homeless? Uh, you’d have a better chance of finding support for more brownfield money to build a new hotel on the lakefront.
In summary, we know two things. One… something has to be done. Two… we have no good idea what that something is.
Not all tent people are homeless. Some actually do it for fun! Camping season is upon us, and where better to experience the out of doors than beautiful Marquette County.
As smart businesspeople recognize that camping numbers are continuing to go up, more campgrounds are being developed. The Rippling River Campground by Marquette Mountain has seen nothing but an increase in interest since it opened a few years ago.
Mark Curran, of Curran & Company and owner of Rippling River, is attempting to open another facility out by the crossroads, but various approval delays and other issues have put that project on hold.
A company called The Preserve LLC is working on a new facility called Kona Hills Campground. It will be somewhat primitive in that it will be 50 sites for tents only with no sewer or electric hookups.
The most interesting aspect of Kona Hills is its location. You’re familiar with the rock cut, across from the Visitor Center as you come into town from the south? Well, look up and that’s where the Kona Hills Campground will be. There will certainly be some excellent views. Just keep your distance from the edge.
Co-owner Jeremy Johnson explains the idea… “The main goal of the Kona Hills project is to open up this significant piece of land to our local and tourist communities in a sustainable way that preserves what makes it special.” They plan to be open for the 2024 camping season.
Other established campgrounds are ready to welcome what we believe will be another blockbuster tourist season.
There’s the popular Tourist Park in Marquette. The Gwinn area has the Farquar-Metsa Tourist Park as well as the Little Lake State Forest Campground. Gitche Gumee RV Park & Campground out on M-28 offers a location close to Lake Superior as well as their own Red Pine Brewery. Of course there’s Perkins Park in Big Bay… always a crowd pleaser. And there’s the aforementioned Rippling River Resort which features its own bar, for those interested in such a thing.
Facilities catering to the RV community include the Country Village RV Park in Ishpeming and the Chocolay River RV and Campgrounds out by the NMU Golf Course in Chocolay Township.
For those who just want to escape, the Forestville Campground offers an “off the grid” experience.
No helping with Yelping here. You’ll have to do your own research or just go for it. Like the weather, you’re never sure what you’re gonna get.
A Dandy Dumpster
Finally… the photo at the top of the page. That’s the dumpster corral at the 3rd Street Marketplace. I noticed it the other day while I was enjoying a craft beer on the patio at the Kognisjon Bryggeri, one of the building’s new tenants.
Marketplace developer Joe Constance could’ve saved a few bucks and just marked off the corner of the parking lot as his dumpster designation. But he didn’t. He classed it up, went the extra mile, and showed us how it can be done when you care about the details. For that, my next beer at the Kog will include a toast to Joe. Salute!