TRAVERSE CITY— Randy Parcher is no stranger to bone-chilling nights, having spent them in his van, in a hut he made of wooden pallets and plastic, or in the aisles of stores open all night long.
“I spent many a night in (stores,) but you’d have to keep walking around,” said Parcher, a homeless Traverse City man. “If you fell asleep, someone would come up to you, ‘You have to leave now.’ There were people actually freezing to death.”
Parcher said the First Church of the Nazarene took action to help the homeless in 2003, when it began providing shelter. That evolved into Safe Harbor, a collection of churches that provide shelter and free meals to the homeless in the colder winter months, which is serving increasing numbers, said Ryan Hannon, Goodwill’s street outreach coordinator.
“Last year, during the first week, it was 45 on the one night it was really cold,” he said. “Last night at West Bay Covenant church we had 52; the night before we had 59 people.”
Just two years ago, November’s nightly average was just 26.
Hannon estimates there are nearly 100 homeless people on the streets in the Traverse City area. There’s nowhere for them to go between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. when Jubilee House closes and Safe Harbor opens.
Saturday’s wind chill dipped to zero. Temperatures will range in the mid 20s to 30s this week with a strong chance of light to moderate snowfall each day, said National Weather Service meteorologist Justin Arnott.
Staying warm is particularly challenging on weekends when the Traverse City library runs shorter hours, Parcher said.
Parcher was sipping a cup of coffee at Central United Methodist, which serves a free breakfast seven days a week and provides showers and a mailing address. The church also offers a free lunch on Thursdays.