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Local homeless shelter will remain open

ESCANABA — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Monday instructing citizens of Michigan to “Stay Home, Stay Safe” — but, for homeless people in the area, doing so is not an option. For these people, faith-based rotating emergency homeless shelter Hope at the Inn (HATI) aims to continue offering its services for the remainder of its 2019-20 season.

So far, the coronavirus pandemic has not had a severe impact on HATI’s operations.

“We are making things work, and we are staying open,” Case Manager Merry Esp said.

Esp said HATI still plans to offer its services until the end of its ongoing season. HATI is scheduled to be held March 23-27 at Church of Christ, March 30-April 5 at Harbor Lights (assisted by Wellspring Church) and April 5-12 at United Evangelical Covenant Church.

Esp said the executive order should not affect HATI.

“I believe it doesn’t apply to us,” she said.

The order contains an exemption for people working and volunteering at businesses and operations — including religious and secular nonprofit organizations — that offer food, shelter and other necessities to people in need.

Recently, HATI has implemented social distancing techniques to the extent possible.

“We have individuals separated in as many areas as we can,” Esp said.

Esp said the shelter is taking some sanitary precautions, as well.

“We have gloves, masks and hand sanitizer — we’re encouraging everyone to wash their hands constantly,” she said.

Since places like libraries, community centers and fast food restaurants have been closed to the public, Esp said HATI is also temporarily offering “warming areas” at a local motel for its residents. “There’s not a lot of options, because of … COVID-19,” she said.

The current season has been a successful one for the shelter. HATI normally provides about 1,000 bed-nights per season.

On average, between six and 10 people have used the shelter’s services per week during the 2019-20 season. Esp said this figure is roughly in line with previous seasons.

Esp encouraged people in the area to get involved with HATI.

“We are always looking for additional volunteers, both from churches but also from the community,” she said.

She went on to thank those who have already contributed to the shelter.

“Their measure of support is greatly appreciated,” Esp said.

For more information — including updates on any changes made to HATI’s schedule — visit www.hopeattheinn.org.

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