Light At The Inn: Homeless shelter prepares for winter season

Light At The Inn has started organizing supplies for the season. Dickinson County’s rotating homeless shelter will open Nov. 4. From left are Andy Leaf, pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Iron Mountain; Bonnie Pelto, administrative committee vice president; Jay Goodreau, coordinator; and Yvonne Clark, administrative committee member. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — As temperatures drop, members of the Light At The Inn administrative committee are busy making final preparations to open for the season Sunday.

Dickinson County’s rotating homeless shelter offers safe and warm overnight accommodations —  including a hot dinner, breakfast and lunch — to those less fortunate.

Light At The Inn, which welcomed its first guests in November 2016, is a coalition of local churches and community organizations working together to provide care for the homeless during the harsh winter months.

The committee once again is seeking volunteers, host and support churches, as well as financial support.

A host church has two coordinators and the space to allow separate sleeping areas for men and women, separate restrooms, plus areas for intake and dining. A support church is not able to offer a physical shelter but can provide such assistance as a coordinator/contact person, volunteers for the host church, supplies, help with organizing meals and other tasks.

“We are in the process of talking to a couple other local churches interested in getting involved,” said Yvonne Clark, administrative committee member. 

Eight local churches again have agreed to serve as hosts: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church of Iron Mountain, First Covenant Church of Iron Mountain, Norway Evangelical Covenant Church, Trinity United Methodist of Iron Mountain, Redemption Hill of Kingsford, St. Barbara Catholic Church of Vulcan/St. Mary Catholic Church of Norway, Grace Methodist/Bethany Lutheran of Norway, and First Methodist of Iron Mountain and Quinnesec.   

“If we could get more to participate, it would take less ‘pressure,’ so to say, off the current host churches,” said Bonnie Pelto, administrative committee vice president.

Host churches take turn in a Sunday-to-Sunday rotation, opening their doors each evening.

The shelters were occupied all but 15 nights in the 2017-18 season. 

“The majority of those occurred during Christmas to New Year’s week and the last two weeks of March because the weather got nicer,” Clark said.

Light At The Inn provided shelter and meals for 18 individual guests, three of which stayed the majority of the season.

Two guests found permanent housing, while four others eventually had housing arrangements made through other agencies, Pelto said. 

“The main change that has been made this year is the time of admission,” said Jay Goodreau, coordinator member. “Guests will be welcomed daily from 6 to 8 p.m.” 

Which means doors will be locked at 8 rather than 9 p.m. 

“If we don’t have any guests for that night, volunteers will be able to lock up and go home,” Clark said. “If there is someone in need of a place to stay after the shelter closes, local law enforcement can contact us and we will make arrangements.”

Light At The Inn doesn’t accept families, only single adults older than 18.

All guests will be checked with a breathalyzer test, a metal detector and to see if listed on the sex offender registry. Coordinators work closely with the police to check for active wants and warrants. 

But Goodreau maintains, “We have never had any trouble.”

“We have had excellent cooperation from all the local police agencies,” Clark added.

Each host church will have at least one male and one female volunteer on site at all times, unless only males come in for the evening, then two male volunteers could stay.

Guests are invited to a family-style meal about 6 p.m. each day, brought in by church volunteers or other community members.

Those preparing the meals are asked to bring their whole family to the shelter to enjoy a dinner with the guests to make them feel welcome.

Coordinators also have three shifts for volunteers to fill throughout the evening.

“Though some choose to stay all night,” Pelto said, “instead of leaving at 10 p.m. when it’s dark and cold — perfect for those night owls.”

Program coordinators welcome new volunteers through the season. Duties that need to be filled include supervising guests throughout the open hours, making and serving meals, transporting guests, and moving cots and shelter supplies from one church to the next on Sunday afternoons.

Training this year is a little different, Goodreau noted, as volunteers will see first-hand how the actual intake process takes place. 

Trainings will be at 6 p.m. Mondays in November at the host churches: Nov. 5, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Iron Mountain; Nov. 12, Redemption Hill in Kingsford; Nov. 19, Trinity United Methodist Church in Iron Mountain; and Nov. 25, First Covenant Church in Iron Mountain.

“We feel being there during the actual process will have volunteers feeling more at ease,” Goodreau said. “Many are apprehensive because it is something new.”

Those who were trained and worked in the past do not have to repeat the training.

“If you signed up in the past but didn’t get a call, please notify us that you are still interested in volunteering,” Pelto said.

Transportation to the shelter is available daily at 5:30 p.m. in the parking area between McDonald’s and Super One Foods at H Street and Stephenson Avenue in Iron Mountain. 

Guests will be supplied with McDonald’s gift cards so they can sit inside on cold nights, waiting for transportation.

Other arrangements can be requested by calling 906-282-5860 before 4 p.m.

Financial donations are tax deductible and can be made to Light At The Inn and mailed to Evangelical Covenant Church, 120 Odill Drive, Norway MI 49870. Other donations also are welcome, including gift cards to fast-food establishments in the amounts of $5 or $10, gift certificates to local laundromats, as well as breakfast products such as cold cereals, coffee, tea, creamer, juices or packaged bakery.

To volunteer or more information, call 906-282-5860 or email lightattheinn@gmail.com. 

Dickinson County Area Homeless Shelter

Light At The Inn


— Nov. 4-11, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 1210 S. Kimberly Ave., Iron Mountain;

— Nov. 11-18, Redemption Hill Church, 332 S. Carpenter Ave., Kingsford;

— Nov. 18-25, Trinity United Methodist Churchy, 808 Carpenter Ave., Iron Mountain;

— Nov. 25-Dec. 2, First Covenant Church, 125 East H St., Iron Mountain;

— Dec. 2-9, Norway Covenant Church, 120 Odill Dr., Norway;

— Dec. 9-16, Bethany Lutheran Church/Grace Methodist Church, 130 Odill Dr., Norway;

— Dec. 16-30, St. Mary/St. Barbara Catholic Church, 401 Main St., Norway;

— Dec. 30-Jan. 6, First Covenant Church, 125 East H St., Iron Mountain;

— Jan. 6-13, Norway Covenant Church, 120 Odill Dr., Norway;

— Jan. 13-20, Redemption Hill, 332 S. Carpenter Ave., Kingsford.

Guests are admitted daily from 6 to 8 p.m. They will be transported to Iron Mountain at 7 a.m. each day.

Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 39, or tcastelaz@ironmountaindailynews.com.