Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

February 16, 2014

Shelter prompts debate

(Continued)

“I’m trying to calm the waters, but it seems to be black or white. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground,” Whelan said.

Resident Gloria Janka, though, said she has mixed feelings about the plan and will try to attend a meeting to learn more.

Peter Starkel, Safe Harbor’s spokesman, said he believes the majority of neighborhood residents are similar to Dow and Janka; they just want more information and answers.

“There are some legitimate concerns that people have and then there are those questions I think are just there to create panic,” Starkel said.

Parents should always have concerns for their children’s safety, but the notion of rampant attacks by street homeless on children is not supported by studies or their history in Traverse City, Starkel said.

“This is not going to create significant changes in the way the city operates because we are not changing anything other than the location,” Starkel said.

Safe Harbor operates well and efficiently, but is running out of space as the number of homeless grows. The organization has looked for a base site for three years, and considered the Grand Traverse Commons, Woodmere Avenue, and other areas of the city. Buildings either aren’t available long-term or are too expensive, Starkel said.

Neighborhood resident Marc Fenton said he generally supports the shelter, but heard concerns from his neighbors.

“I think it’s going to be important to get the conversation going,” Fenton said. “I’m sure there are various points of view and everybody needs to be heard.”

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