TRAVERSE CITY — Neighborhood resident Dan Pearson agrees Traverse City does need a central location to shelter the street homeless during the winter but he’s just not sure the organization Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse has found it.
Pearson joined more than 90 people Wednesday in the second of two presentations hosted by Safe Harbor, a group of 23 churches that provides overnight shelter on a rotating basis during the winter months. The group wants to convert a 9,600-square-foot warehouse on Wellington Street one block south of Eighth Street into a permanent winter shelter and year-round service location for the homeless.
“The idea is a great idea, but what makes this the best location,” Pearson said. “It’s a tough issue and there are good arguments on both sides.”
Organizers said the shelter will help reduce the number of homeless in the city by providing contacts and services. They attempted to dispel the idea the shelter will attract more homeless to the city, noting 74 percent are from Grand Traverse County and 85 percent from the five county region.
“We are not San Diego, people don’t come here in the winter to be homeless,” said Peter Starkel, a member of the Safe Harbor steering committee.
Residents from the Boardman neighborhood and other nearby property owners raised concerns about homeless people loitering in Hull Park and along the TART Trail. Some said the homeless already cause problems with trash, disorderly conduct, and aggressive panhandling and locating the shelter on Wellington will just increase the problems.
“It may be just a small percentage causing the problems but it’s still a percentage,” said Brandon Hunt of Mid-American Title, a neighboring business on Eighth Street
Hunt also said an appraiser has told them the value of their property will drop by up to 46 percent if the homeless shelter goes in.
“They keep calling this a warehouse district but that building is the only warehouse there,” Hunt said.
About a dozen people spoke during the meeting and about half said they favored the proposal. Most of those had volunteered their time at Safe Harbor and described the homeless as good people who need help.
“My experience is about 12 to 15 years working with the homeless and I have never felt threatened,” said Patricia Nugent, a Safe Harbor volunteer.
Several residents said they want more details about the project before they lend their support.