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.
Farmers market, good credit and cool temps
TRAVERSE CITY — It’s a cool, cool summer. Sounds like a bad song from the '80s band Bananarama. Yikes. Just when you thought you’d never hear the word Bananarama again some bald guy raises those big hair memories. But in all seriousness, when the BizContinued ...
Trails lead to economic growth
TRAVERSE CITY – Martha Ryan guesses bikers riding along the Leelanau Trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay boost her restaurant’s business by a hefty 10 percent. It doesn’t just bring more people into her restaurant. It brings hungry people. “BContinued ...
Study shows economic impact of Vasa Pathway
TRAVERSE CITY -- Businesses can track revenue, profits and stock prices to determine their economic impact. That's a tough task for recreation experts like Julie Clark, executive director of Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails. "It's sContinued ...
Surf shop hangs 10: Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak celebrates decade in business
EMPIRE – Beryl Skrocki saw a downtown in need of a little action when she looked over the Village of Empire in 2004. She decided to bring some to the lakefront community in Leelanau County. Skrocki launched Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak, and sells outContinued ...
NMC to lease Shadowland Motel
Northwestern Michigan College trustees approved a plan to turn a local motel that’s been the site of recent drug raids and criminal arrests into temporary student housing.Continued ...
Traverse City Film Fest Schedule: 07/29/2014
What's happening Tuesday at the Traverse City Film Festival:Continued ...
Film Fest ticket sales heat up
Thunderstorms and rain and wind. Oh my! Traverse City Film Festival organizers and patrons are crossing their fingers as the threat of cold, stormy weather looms, especially on the eve of the 10th rendition of the annual event.Continued ...
Expect chilly weather during Open Space movies
Movie-lovers who attend the Traverse City Film Festival's first Open Space showing may want to pack warm clothes and an umbrella along with their lawn chairs.Continued ...
UPDATE: YMCA officials remain optimistic on opening date
There is no longer an electronic ticker on the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA's website that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the new facility's opening.Continued ...
Roads in city, GT County closed
Some local roads will close this week as the summer construction season rolls on.Continued ...
Ex-school board member eyes GT County commission
A former Traverse City Area Public Schools board member who's running for Grand Traverse County's Board of Commissioners said balancing the county's budget will be his top priority if elected.Continued ...
Police dog tracks down accused drunken driver
A Traverse City man faces accusations he wandered away from his pickup truck after he drunkenly ran it off the road and into a Long Lake Township ditch.Continued ...
Authorities investigate Whitewater blaze
An abandoned Whitewater Township farmhouse collapsed in a fire that authorities consider suspicious.Continued ...
Teen's jump into Leland marina waters prompts search
A teen's plunge into Leland Marina after a suspected boat break-in prompted a search by local authorities and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew who didn't know he resurfaced and went to a friend's home.Continued ...
YMCA postpones charter membership party
Grand Traverse Bay YMCA officials postponed a party intended to unveil the new fitness facility to the organization's charter members.Continued ...
2 Republicans hope to deregulate businesses, represent Kalkaska downstate
Dave Ryan didn’t win the 103rd House seat in 2008, when his campaign consisted of riding his tractor door-to-door for more than 1,000 miles.Continued ...
Today remains chilly after Sunday storms
Showers and thunderstorms brought almost a half-inch of rain and small hail to the Grand Traverse area, but there were no severe weather warnings or reports of significant damage.Continued ...
Pretty Paper Connects Us All
Don Harrison knows collectors. “Different people buy different things for different reasons,” he said as he sized up the landscape with a practiced eye from his third floor perch at Wilson Antiques in Traverse City.Continued ...
Show to tell stories of the past
Don Harrison collects postcards, sheet music and old maps; he also collects the stories that follow them. Events like the inaugural 2014 Traverse City Antique Postcard & Rare Paper Show make great story hunting, Harrison said.Continued ...
Renny faces contender
A debate about who can best represent Grand Traverse County’s southern villages and townships is at the heart of one county commission race.Continued ...
State approves TCAPS program
The Michigan Department of Education officially approved Traverse City Area Public Schools’ early college program, which means students can start working toward their associates degree while still in high school.Continued ...
- Sunday, July 27, 2014
To our readers
Because of storm-related electrical damage to our production facility, printing of Sunday’s edition was delayed and caused very late delivery. We apologize for the inconvenience. If you did not receive the Sunday edition, please contact the circulation department at 946-2187.Continued ...
16 vie for GT County commission seats
A crowded field of candidates is jostling for seven seats on the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners.Continued ...
GT County Commission candidates
GT County Commission candidates: District 1 — Republican David Barr; Republican Dan Lathrop — incumbent. (Plus more)Continued ...
Ex-court referee's license suspended, but still refs soccer
Former 13th Circuit Court referee Dennis Mikko lost his job and recently lost his license to practice law, both thanks to his possession of nude images of teenage girls in his court house office.Continued ...
- Farmers market, good credit and cool temps