Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 27, 2013

Idea for Traverse City 'wet house' revisited

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The idea of a Traverse City “wet house” is catching a second wind.

A wet house is a place where homeless and chronic alcoholics are allowed to drink while being encouraged to improve their lives. The idea for a Traverse City wet house was introduced last fall, but the majority of Traverse City commissioners gave it a cool reception.

The proposal is now being revived with the appointment of new board members with close ties to the homeless population to a nonprofit that oversees two recovery residences, along with a small grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City.

“I’m very encouraged, I’m very hopeful,” said Greg Stone, executive director of the nonprofit Stoneshouse and who floated the wet house idea locally last year. “This part is really getting a detailed plan together. I was out there last year talking about a vision and a hope. That’s wonderful, but you have to put details on paper.”

Stone said the house would be named “Dann’s House,” after Danny McCarthy, who died on Nov. 1, 2012, at age 45 from a pulmonary embolism and alcohol intoxication.

The $5,000 Rotary grant was recently awarded to Stoneshouse, a Traverse City nonprofit that oversees recovery residences with an abstinence policy in Manistee. The $5,000 grant will pay for Northsky, a nonprofit arm of Rotary Charities, to assist the Stoneshouse board develop a strategic plan, a business plan, and fundraising.

“The idea behind Dann’s house is that people who cannot or do not recover from addiction still have inherent worth and dignity and deserve to be treated with respect and kindness,” said Karen McCarthy, Dann’s sister. “Even though Dann was in his addiction when he died, he had a huge impact on the community as a volunteer for many groups. There were 350 people at his funeral.”

McCarthy stressed the concept is still in the “dream stage.” She recently joined the 13-member board, which has also added Ken Homa, executive director of Third Level, Traverse City Police Sgt. Jeff O’Brien, who often deals with homeless people, and Harry Hubbell of Safe Harbor -- a network of area churches that provide shelter and food during the winter months.

“We’ve really worked hard over the last six months to expand and localize the board,” said board President Jane Hayes, who recently retired as associate professor at Grand Valley State University. “We see the grant as a very positive sign.”

The group now wants to dispatch the term “wet house.”

“Now we have a name, Dann’s House, and that makes our mission seem more concrete,” Stone said. “Our mission is to house chronically homeless alcoholics.”