Traverse City Record-Eagle


February 19, 2014

Safe Harbor drops drunk tank plan for shelter

TRAVERSE CITY — Safe Harbor officials dropped a drunk tank from their proposal to convert a city-owned warehouse into a permanent shelter for street homeless.

The proposed drunk tank inside the shelter raised some of the strongest objections from Boardman neighborhood residents and also failed to gain support of the 23 churches that comprise the Safe Harbor coalition. Safe Harbor representatives will meet with members of the neighborhood and public today at 6:30 p.m. at the Woodmere Avenue Branch of the Traverse Area District Library to review their proposal to establish the shelter on Wellington Street one block south of Eighth Street.

Spokesman Peter Starkel said the drunk tank concept had not been discussed before the entire 23-member steering committee when the project organizers made their proposal to the city in January. Committee members nixed the drunk tank because their volunteers were not trained to deal with that type of behavior, Starkel said.

“There needs to be someone actively monitoring those individuals and we don’t have that type of capacity,” Starkel said. “Might we have that type of capacity sometime in the future — I doubt it.”

But neighboring business owner Mark Jensen questioned if Safe Harbor officials are being “up front” after he was copied on an email from one of the shelter organizers to Starkel. The email cautioned against talking about drunk tanks and recommends the group focus on obtaining the building first.

The message came after the committee had already nixed the drunk tank and was about staying focused on the shelter, Starkel said.

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