Homeless in the Copper Country

Editor’s note: This article is the second of a two-part series looking at the issue of homelessness in the Copper Country.

L’ANSE – Despite there not being a lot of homeless people in the Copper Country area, there are still cases of domestic violence which can lead to women and men finding themselves without a home.

Jim Loyd, director of the Baraga County Shelter Home in L’Anse, said the shelter is strictly a place for those who find themselves victims of abuse.

“The clientele we serve is almost exclusively women and their dependent children,” Loyd said.

Women staying there are allowed to stay indefinitely, but are encouraged to find an alternative living arrangement.

“The sad truth is that when one person stays too long we’re denying service to another person,” Loyd said.

A person who comes looking for shelter will not be turned away, though.

“If we’re booked solid and someone shows up they may have to sleep on the couch,” Loyd said.

While there, Loyd said efforts are made to put them in touch with an assortment of social services.

Although the Baraga County Shelter Home deals almost exclusively with women, they do help men on occasion, but the instances are few and far between.

If and when a man does show up, alternative house arrangements need to be made as the shelter itself is strictly for women and children.

“We would work with them, but we wouldn’t have them living in the shelter,” Loyd said.

Loyd also said the issue of homelessness resulting from domestic violence and sexual abuse is bigger than one might think due to a lack of understanding on the definition of domestic violence.

“Sometimes there will be a single incident (and the victim) will be fearful for a long time waiting for the next event to occur,” Loyd said.

Outreach Advocate Mary Niemela of the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter said the shelter allows people affected by domestic violence to stay for 30 days, but the time is also flexible.

“We don’t throw them out, but we don’t wait until the last day before to say ‘What are you going to do?'” Niemela said. “We work with them as much as we can.”

The services available at the shelter include a full-time counselor.

“We provide services for anybody anywhere,” Niemela said. “We’ve had people from all over. It doesn’t matter where they come from.

The BKGS is a 10-bed shelter and receives funding through the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, which is located in Lansing. It is also a recipient of funds from the United Way, outside grants and donations from the community.

“We have a lot of generous people in our community,” Niemela said.

According to her, the shelter has also been busy lately, adding that Baraga has, per capita, as much domestic violence as the big city.

“What you see in the newspaper is a very small part of what we actually see,” Niemela said. “Statistically, a woman will go back (to the abuser) five or six times, but she does leave.”

The BKGS can be reached at 906-337-5623. or toll-free line at 888-337-5623.