TRAVERSE CITY — A plan to create a permanent home for a small group of alcoholic and chronically homeless street people just received a $35,000 innovation grant.
“This pushed us forward a little faster,” said Greg Stone, executive director of StonesHouse, a nonprofit. “Here we have the Department of Community Health saying this is a worthwhile project and wants to see it happen so it can be replicated in other communities.”
The state Department of Community Health awarded StonesHouse with a 2014 Health Innovation Grant, one of 42 awarded statewide. The grant, intended to cover start-up costs, must be spent by year’s end.
“The grant is a real milestone in that the state was looking for projects that approached health issues in innovative and new ways,” said Jane Hayes, board chair of StonesHouse.
The project initially was termed a “wet house,” but now is referred to as Dann’s House. It likely will accommodate between 10 and 12 people, who will be allowed to drink alcohol on the premises, Stone said.
A site for Dann’s House has yet to be determined, Stone said.
“The main thing is this is where the individual is going to live,” Stone said. “It’s not like they have to get up and leave at 8 a.m. and come back at 6 p.m. or can live there for only two months or six months. If they want to live here until they die, they could.”
Stone has been the driving force behind Dann’s House, a project of StonesHouse. The board formed a committee who are looking for an apartment complex or a six-bedroom house to rent or buy and that is near public transportation, but not in a neighborhood, Stone said.
“A small apartment building would be wonderful,” he said. “There will be a couple of women living at Dann’s House, I believe, and that would make the issue a little cleaner.”
Dann’s House would open as soon as the agency finds a suitable home, Stone said.
Dann’s House is named after Danny McCarthy, who died on Nov. 1, 2012, from a pulmonary embolism and alcohol intoxication. McCarthy, who was chronically homeless, was the kind of person who could have been helped by Dann’s House, said his sister, Karen McCarthy.
“He had a home at the time of his death. But only after he lost all his toes to frostbite was he able to get housing,” said McCarthy, who sits on the StonesHouse board and wrote the grant with her husband, John Noonan.
Dann’s House is not to be confused with another proposal to convert a city-owned warehouse into a permanent, overnight homeless shelter and year-round drop-in facility. The Traverse City Commission has been asked to lease a 9,600-square-foot building on Wellington Street to Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse, a volunteer coalition of churches.
Stone predicts that Dann’s House will reduce the number of people who are arrested, jailed, or taken to emergency rooms. At least, that’s the experience of similar projects across the country, he said.
“These folks are sick and damaged, but if you give them just a little bit, it’s amazing what it starts to awaken within people and how they start to heal,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re going to get sober and get a job. But this will give them that little bit of hope that today is not so bad.”
Stone, an alcohol and drug counselor, said he initially will live in Dann’s house. There is funding for a part-time employee; volunteers will also help out.
“This is a mission for me,” said Stone, who has not had a drink since June of 1987. “I didn’t plan this; it’s where the journey led me.”