Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 30, 2012

Editorial: Housing would be alternative


---- — Traverse City has long been known as a town that is relatively friendly to the homeless and those facing problems finding jobs that can sustain a family and provide permanent housing.

Like so many other such places, however, economic realities rule: the more attractive the place, the more expensive the housing, forcing those on the margins to live further from jobs and to settle in places where public transportation is rare. There are few places to shop within walking distance and maintaining a car — and paying for gas — is a major hurdle.

A proposal by Goodwill Industries of Northwest Michigan could help break that cycle for a few dozen families or individuals by creating 36 apartments of permanent supportive housing behind the Cherryland Center in Garfield Township.

The nonprofit group, which already operates the Goodwill Inn Homeless Shelter just off South Airport Road near the Cherryland Center site, proposes to use state low-income housing tax credits to finance the $4 million project. Four two-story buildings will contain 20 one-bedroom apartments and 16 two-bedroom units, plus office space for use by caseworkers and other service providers.

Goodwill appears to have given this project the attention something like this deserves. The organization has proposed a design to help the apartments look more like townhouses than low-income housing. The buildings will face neighboring streets with parking to the rear, a better fit with neighboring single-family homes.

The location makes sense. Federally subsidized low-income housing is often stuck a long way from shopping or schools or jobs. This project, near the Cherryland Center, would allow residents to walk to food retailers and other shops where they can buy food and find jobs. Public transportation is a breeze. The Bay Area Transportation Authority has a route based at the Cherryland Center that can get riders all over town and to connectors to Benzie County, Williamsburg and across the region.

The bus can get students to Northwestern Michigan College, to jobs downtown and to shopping and jobs from one end of town to the other.

Traverse Heights elementary school is nearby.

A case manager will help residents stay in their homes by coordinating services with other agencies, such as community mental health, veterans services, or addiction treatment services.

For many of the people who will likely live there, theirs isn't a housing problem but a life problem, something Goodwill is all too aware of. Having professional advice right next door is a way to ensure those who move here have the best possible chance to make it work. The last thing any of them need is another failed situation.

This is potentially life-changing stuff. The region's homeless now have one more key service to turn to in time of need, from Goodwill's homeless shelter to area churches that open their doors for a meal, a night indoors and even e-mail service.

The timing is excellent. Traverse City has recently had discussions on how to keep homeless and street people, some of whom are drunk, away from pedestrians.

Another option for those people is great for them and good for the community.