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The LodgeHouse opens in Kalamazoo

A woman stands in her new, mostly empty apartment with red bedspread, white walls and in the background, black appliances
Leona Larson
Norwida Sweder of Kalamazoo was among the first people to move into LodgeHouse on October 5, 2022. Before moving into her efficiency apartment, Sweder lived on the streets and at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.

The remodeled and updated former Knights Inn Motel on Westnedge Avenue celebrated its opening Friday. The complex will ease Kalamazoo’s affordable housing shortage a little bit as the first group of people, more than a dozen homeless Kalamazooans, now have a place to call home.

In Kalamazoo, dozens of people who were homeless will have permanent housing at the LodgeHouse. The apartment complex with 60 efficiency units opened this week.

“The first time I saw this was Wednesday,” said resident Norwida Sweder. It was the day she moved into her new apartment.

On Tuesday she was homeless.

Today she has new, full-sized appliances, a microwave, dining set, television, large closet, extra-long bed with nightstands and lots of storage underneath. Sweder said she’ll use it to store off-season clothing she used to have to give away because she had no place to keep it.

“When I first got in here, you know, Wednesday, like, I just, I just cried tears of joy, you know, because I realized what it means, that, you know, I have some place, it's my own and I just have to maintain it and it's gonna be okay.”

Sweder is one of the first seventeen new residents, all formally homeless, who moved into the efficiency apartments this week. More are set to move in over the next couple of weeks.

The organization responsible for the new affordable housing community is the LIFT Foundation. The nonprofit group repurposed the former Knights Inn Motel on Westnedge Avenue into 60 apartments that can house one or two people in each unit. LIFT said 100% of the 61 residents who will call LodgeHouse home come from Kalamazoo’s homeless population.

“Bringing new units online is a difficult process,” said Carole McNees, board president of the LIFT Foundation. “And so anytime any affordable housing developer can do that. It's a real big win for the community. And so, it makes progress on that but doesn't solve the affordable housing, there's still obviously more work to do. But we're excited.”

McNees said the group’s goal was to provide housing security.

“We want to be open and have, you know, kind of what's referred to as a ‘housing first’ kind of solution,” she said. “Where folks that might be dealing with a number of different issues in their life, trying to provide the stability of housing first, and then support services around that to help with other needs.”

To achieve that goal, the LIFT Foundation partnered with Integrated Services of Kalamazoo to provide 24-hour-a-day support. Along with permanent housing, LodgeHouse residents will receive mental health, substance abuse and other support services.

There are still a couple of units available. Low-income individuals without housing are encouraged to apply.

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started her media career producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special projects' producer and later, as an investigative producer. She spent several years teaching journalism for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University. Leona prefers to use her middle name on air because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.