TRAVERSE CITY — Joe Sersaw is homeless, but he won't be for long.
Members of Traverse City High School's Class of 1987 launched a campaign to find former classmate Sersaw a warm dwelling before winter sets in. Michelle Fehrenbach, one of the campaign's founders, said Sersaw should move into a modest trailer by Saturday.
Sersaw suffers from schizophrenia. He's a familiar face in the downtown, where he shuffles along in worn clothing, his hair matted and face cloaked by a thick beard.
He's also well-known to local law enforcement officials. Sersaw has at least 21 convictions for misdemeanors in district court since 2000. Most stem from trespassing charges, but two are for disorderly conduct and one for attempting to assault, resist, or obstruct a police officer.
Traverse City Police Capt. Steve Morgan said many of the charges result from Sersaw trying to stay warm in places he shouldn't.
"As far as I know, he's not a dangerous person," Morgan said.
Fehrenbach talked about Sersaw, 43, and the project to find him a home — dubbed Operation Joe's Place — as she sipped coffee downtown with John Lopez, another project organizer, and two other members of the '87 class.
Lopez laid the foundation for Operation Joe's Place with a post about Sersaw on a class Facebook page last spring.
"John did a little rant," Fehrenbach said. "'Why is nobody helping? What about our classmate?'"
"Any one of us could be in that situation and not know how to get out of it," said James Smith, another classmate.
The post prompted Fehrenbach, with Lopez's help, to navigate the court system in an effort to gain oversight of Sersaw's financial matters.
The courts appointed her to that role after roughly 5 months of bureaucratic wrangling. Now she receives disability checks on his behalf.
Fehrenbach and Lopez then began to look for a place for Sersaw to live. Fehrenbach found a trailer and decided to buy it; that left Sersaw only with utility bills and property lease payments, which he can afford with his disability checks.
"I didn't have the money for it, but I figured I would go for it," she said.
This month Fehrenbach started pages on Facebook and a website called ChipIn.com to solicit money and in-kind contributions.
Donations easily surpassed $1,500 in about 3 days. They totalled more than $1,800 by late this week.
Additional donations can be made at: operationjoesplace.chipin.com.
Dozens of 1987 classmates and other members of the Traverse City community posted offers to donate paint, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies and more.
Volunteers will spend today cleaning and readying Sersaw's trailer for his arrival.
Whether Sersaw will recognize he has a place to live remains unclear, but one classmate believes he will settle into his new lifestyle.
"Once he realizes it's a safe place that's his, he will start to grasp it," Diane Denoyer said.
Sersaw's support group understands Operation Joe's Place will provide a home for but one of Traverse City's many homeless residents. But they hope their efforts will prompt others to help others in need.
"We can't save the world, but you can make a difference one person at a time," Fehrenbach said.
TRAVERSE CITY — Joe Sersaw is homeless, but he won't be for long.
High school sports scoreboard: 12/06/2013
A roundup of prep sports results from across northern Michigan:Continued ...
Video: Community Tree Lighting
Watch Santa Claus arrive in Traverse City and help locals light the downtown tree tonight.Continued ...
Major snowmobile trail open after roadblock
A major snowmobile trail connecting Gaylord to westward northern Michigan trails will remain open, a shift of gears from state officials' prior closure announcement.Continued ...
How Grinchy Met The Who
Imagine “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” meets “Tommy,” sung and spoken entirely in rhyme.Continued ...
Contribute: Best Christmas light displays
We’re searching for the area’s best neighborhood Christmas light displays for an upcoming Northern Living story.Continued ...
Weekend in Brief: 12/06/2013
Christmas parody; Kalkaska Library cookie sale; Glass Mosaic Gallery open house; and more.Continued ...
Night Life Calendar: 12/06/2013
What's happening after dark across northern Michigan:Continued ...
Manistee celebrates season with reopened Vogue, Christmas Weekend
If you’ve never driven the 65 miles southwest to Manistee for the city’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend there’s an extra reason to make the trip this year.Continued ...
OTP gets in the spirit with 'Wonderful Life'
Jill Beauchamp has watched the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every Christmas season since she was young.Continued ...
- Poll: Are you happy with results of Clinch Park makeover?
U-M to fix teen's broken heart
The University of Michigan stepped forward with a gift of open heart surgery for Nguyen Duyen, a Vietnamese exchange student who has lived under a cloud of uncertainty and stress for months.Continued ...
Editorial: TC obligated to recognize Indian villages at Clinch
The issue: Historic markers at Clinch ignore Anishinaabek people. Our view: Get it right.Continued ...
TCSF student gets equestrian scholarship from UT-Martin
Reiley Wilson is not unlike most high school athletes who aim to continue competing at the collegiate level.Continued ...
Letters to the Editor: 12/06/2013
Doesn’t make sense; Victims were helpless.Continued ...
Building Permits: 12/06/2013
Building permits issued in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
Grand Traverse area lands state acquisition grants
Michigan natural resources officials recently decided it’s well worth $2.5 million to preserve about 8 acres on Old Mission Peninsula with beach access, an effort to keep the area from being turned into 10 lavish homes.Continued ...
The Record: 12/06/2013
Assumed names filed in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
GT 911 downed by glitch
It wasn’t an emergency that rang Grand Traverse County’s 911 phone lines off the hook.Continued ...
Area receives state dollars for increased recreation
Local recreational areas will receive makeovers, courtesy of the state Department of Natural Resources.Continued ...
Top county official evaluated by board
Grand Traverse County commissioners saved some of their most critical words for each other during an annual evaluation of the county’s top employee.Continued ...
Girls Basketball Roundup: Titans drop opener
It wasn’t the best of starts for Traverse City West in Thursday’s girls basketball season opener against Grand Haven, but the Titans played the Buccaneers even the rest of the way in a 43-31 loss. (Plus more)Continued ...
Munson pharmacist awarded for pain management expertise
A professional state association recently honored a Munson Medical Center pharmacist for his expertise in pain management.Continued ...
Movie Capsules: 12/06/2013
New this week — All Is Lost: After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. (GAR)Continued ...
Community in Brief: 12/06/2013
Torch Lake Association party; ISEA Great Lakes Seminar; and more.Continued ...
Clearing the Record: 12/06/2013
Because of a reporter’s error, Coldwell Banker was misspelled in a Thursday photo caption.Continued ...
- High school sports scoreboard: 12/06/2013