Sault Ste. Marie Tribe transforms former motel into transitional housing

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) — The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is taking a major step in addressing homelessness in the community.

The Tribe has converted a former motel into transitional housing to create what is only the second homeless shelter in the Upper Peninsula.

What used to be the Plaza Motor Motel off I-75 is now the Lodge of Hope.

Chairman Austin Lowes said the shelter fills a desperate need in the community.

“We were utilizing a voucher system where if an individual was homeless, they, would come to our social service agency and we would provide them a two-week voucher for a local motel,” Lowes said.

“In our opinion, that was insufficient for two reasons: the first reason is that because it didn’t address the underlying reason why an individual is homeless; the second is because, quite frankly, two weeks isn’t a lot of time for an individual to get housing,” Lowes said.

Pictured is Austin Lowes, Chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, during an interview on August 2, 2023. (UpNorthLive News)

Tribal member Shawna Quinn and her partner Jesse are among the first to move in, saying it’s a marked improvement for their lives.

“We were living a little bit of everywhere. Lived in the woods, we lived next to train tracks, and we’ve been in a tent for quite some time now,” Quinn said. “It’s definitely nice to be in a shelter and have air conditioning and a place to take a shower, a place to wash clothes and a place to cook.”

The Lodge of Hope has 21 rooms, already furnished from its days as a motel.

“It sits on 4.5 acres, we plan on building a playground here for children, it’s right across the street from the state police post in case law enforcement presence is ever needed and it’s just a good place for people to stay with dignity,” Lowes said.

“When we made the purchase, it was still while COVID was going on, while property was pretty sky-high. But the seller we worked with was an absolute class act, he didn’t raise the price,” Lowes said.

Until now, the only homeless shelter in teh Upper Peninsula was in Marquette.

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