MICHIGAN CITY — A nonprofit group here is reaching out to the homeless it serves as it works to recover from a fire earlier this week.

Keys to Hope, which serves about 70 homeless people daily, has moved to an interim site at the Grace Learning Center, 1007 W. 8th St.

Both organizations provide help in finding shelter, education and other services, like access to computers, to assist the homeless in getting back on their feet.

What Keys to Hope also offered was providing about 600 showers and 500 loads of laundry each month, along with lockers for storing personal belongings while clients are on the streets.

The group is scrambling to find alternative locations for the homeless to go for those necessities until the fire damage is repaired, which could be 60 to 90 days from now.

"It’s coming along. It’s frustrating sometimes, but we have a job to do, and we’re right down in the trenches," said Mike Kilbourne, director of Keys to Hope. The group was founded less than three years ago.

Kilbourne has been busy tracking down and informing the homeless about the temporary site and handing out care packages containing shampoo, lotion, underwear, socks and other items of hygiene.

He's also been handing back their clothes and other items.

"All of this is going to be temporary, but, obviously, there are going to be a lot of growing pains along the way. There's going to be a lot of bumps in the road, but everybody is going to rally together, and it's going to be just fine," said Jim Musial, director of Citizens Concerned for the Homeless, the parent organization for Keys to Hope and Grace Learning Center.

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The fire at 1802 Franklin St. burned through the front of the building into an office on the west side of the 3,000 square-foot, single-story structure. Musial estimated the repair costs at $100,000.

Fire Chief Randy Novak said Friday that careless smoking is the suspected cause of the fire. It appears someone tossed a cigarette butt into a planter that came into contact with a piece of cardboard, Novak said.

Since the fire, some limited shower space is being provided daily at the First Presbyterian Church, 121 W. 9th St., from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Other locations continue to be sought.

Sand Castle Shelter next to Grace Learning Center is the third group under the same umbrella.

The shelter provides temporary housing to single moms with children and sometimes families headed by couples or single fathers.

Single women are provided shelter when space is available.

"Thankfully, the community is starting to come together and brainstorm and think out of the box in order to get these guys the services they need," said Candice Silvas, director of the shelter.

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