EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—A year into the COVID-19 outbreak, local businesses and charities have struggled tremendously. The Abundant Life Mission in Menominee has seen its share of trials, but also remains the only homeless shelter in Michigan to have never had a case of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 definitely put a damper on everything. This year at one point, we were definitely faced with the idea of closing down, but right now we have secured funding for payroll and at this point it doesn’t look like we’ll have to close,” said Assistant Director Joshua Palma.
Palma said he was able to secure the second round of forgivable loans from the Payroll Protection Program, which was established by the congressional CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act and implemented by the Small Business Administration. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the loans can be used to pay up to eight weeks of payroll plus benefits, as well as interest on mortgages, rent and utilities for small businesses, independent contractors or those who are self-employed.
Palma also said the mission has received a lot of help from the local banks in the area, including Stephenson National Bank and Nicolet National Bank. “Basically the big four banks (in the area) have been doing an outstanding job helping us get along, but now that we have those loans now we have to pay back on those loans,” he said.
Palma said he met with the Salvation Army Thursday, which is in charge of the Emergency Shelter Program. “That pays $18 per bed night. If we can secure that funding, there’s not going to be an issue since they don’t dictate how we spend the money, as long as it’s spent on operational costs or payroll,” he said.
The M&M Community Foundation also awarded a grant of $6,950 to Abundant Life, which was used to purchase cleaning supplies. Additionally, Palma said that he had been in contact with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who he said offered to give some funding to the shelter for those they refer to the shelter in the future.
Because of the pandemic, Abundant Life has had to change the way it takes people in. “We had to change everything up because of the pandemic, and there wasn’t a single person here trained to do that sort of a maneuver that quick. So the pandemic started and we had to close our Second Chance thrift shop and turn that into our quarantine area,” he said.
Palma said they were also able to enlist the help of Alger-Marquette Community Action to help them purchase cleaning supplies while they were still figuring out how to handle the pandemic. “They gave us a good idea of what we should purchase in the future, and we’ve been running off of that,” he said.
Anyone coming to stay at Abundant Life had to stay in the quarantine area for two weeks. After two weeks, if people staying there didn’t show any COVID symptoms, they could move into the main living quarters. “We were doing the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing every week, and now we’re doing the antibody test. PCR tests have a one- to two-day waiting period, so you go into the quarantine area, once you go through the PCR test and I find out whether or not you’re positive or negative, if you’re negative you go to the regular living quarters. If you’re positive, you get put into a sick bay,” he said.
The shelter’s sick bay has one individual who is responsible for overseeing anyone who would have to stay there, but so far the sick bay has not been used. “At this point, we are literally the only homeless shelter in the state of Michigan that has had zero cases come through, so we’re doing really good from that aspect,” Palma said.
Currently there are 60 people living at Abundant Life. “I’ve been here for four years, and every single year we skyrocket in population during the winter. With COVID and landlords can’t evict people, it comes to a point where eventually something’s going to give and we’ll probably be at max capacity,” he said.
Those who want to help the mission can either send a check addressed to Abundant Life Mission or go to alcmission.org and click on the “Our Mission” link on the home page. The page this link directs to has a donate button for those who wish to donate online.