KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A former motel in Kalamazoo has been transformed into apartments to house those who were previously homeless.

The former Knights Inn at 1211 South Westnedge Ave. just north of Forest Street in the Vine neighborhood is now LodgeHouse. It has 60 studio apartments, each fully furnished with a full kitchen, bathroom, heat and air conditioning, and high-speed internet. There’s also a community room, on-site support services, laundry and parking. LodgeHouse accepts service animals but not pets.

The former Knights Inn off S. Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo is now LodgeHouse. (Oct. 7, 2022)
The former Knights Inn off S. Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo is now LodgeHouse. (Oct. 7, 2022)

LIFT Foundation bought the property in January 2021 and made it available to “extremely low-income” tenants.

“We’re using the (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) income limits,” Lisa Willcutt of property manager Lockhart Management Consulting explained. “We’re using the very low — which is a 50% area median income limit — or extremely low — which is 30% of area median income — or the poverty level.”

LodgeHouse is expected to be at full capacity come November.

Norwida Sweder moved in Wednesday.

Norwida Sweder. (Oct. 7, 2022)
Norwida Sweder. (Oct. 7, 2022)

“I cried tears of joy because I’ve been through a lot,” she said. “It was just amazing to just open that door to realize I can walk to the store and I can come back. … That I leave and I don’t have to take everything I’m going to need for the day. I can sleep when I want to. I can take a shower at 2 in the morning. That’s fine. I don’t have to deal with a lot of stuff. It’s just the security of knowing I have a place of my own now.”

A year ago, she was sleeping rough on the streets of Kalamazoo. Then she managed to land a part-time job with a contractor who does housekeeping and dining services. But Sweder, who is bipolar and deals with anxiety, wanted to make sure she could break the cycle.

“I was honest with them: ‘Hey, I went through all these jobs and this is what’s happened. I’m trying to get back into the workforce slowly and doing what I think I can handle right now.’ I continued therapy, my meds, and things like that. Maybe, six months, a year down the line… maybe I can go back to working full-time. Right now, I can’t handle that,” she said.

Her sister told her about LodgeHouse and Sweder filled out the applications.

“I got approved for the Section 8 voucher, then I got approved for this place, so we’re just waiting for this place to get done,” she said. ” It gives you something to keep working towards. I know I’m going to eventually get there if I stay on the right path.”

LIFT set a donation goal of $2.5 million for the project and also got $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 relief fund money sent to Kalamazoo County.

“We’re obviously very excited. This does not (single-handedly) solve the housing issues in the community but every little bit helps,” LIFT Board President Carole McNees said. “All we want to do is to just continue to contribute what we can to helping the affordable housing needs in the community.”