Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 13, 2013

Homeless man dies at church shelter


— TRAVERSE CITY — Bryan Price died homeless, but drew his last breath in a church shelter, a refuge that spared him dying cold and alone.

Grand Traverse County Medical Examiner Matthew Houghton identified Price, 52, who was pronounced dead today at 7:49 a.m. at Munson Medical Center.

Price was found unresponsive inside Christ United Methodist Church by attendants who turned on the lights. Medical personnel from East Bay Township responded to a 911 call made at 6:52 a.m. and attempted to save him, said Grand Traverse County Undersheriff Nate Alger.

Price died “in a warm, safe place ... surrounded by volunteers and people that he knew,” said Ryan Hannon, a street outreach coordinator for Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan. “This is a very sad, unfortunate situation, and we are grateful to the many churches and volunteers who host Safe Harbor and care for our citizens facing homelessness during these cold winter months.”

Safe Harbor is a network of churches that shelter and feed the area’s homeless at night on a rotating basis during colder months.

“People are taking it rough,” Hannon said. “A counselor will show up at Safe Harbor tonight to debrief anyone who wants to participate.”

Houghton said Price suffered no trauma, but had apparently complained of dizziness and shortness of breath on Thursday.

“We don’t know why he passed away,” Hannon said. “The lifespan of people living on the streets is generally shorter than the rest of us.”

People living on the streets are fragile, often coping with significant health issues, he said.

“It’s one of those things; we always lose a few people each year and it’s always heart-breaking,” said Peter Starkel, a Safe Harbor steering committee member. “This community relies on each other pretty heavily in terms of their relationships. He was a pretty well-known guy.”

Hannon said he doesn’t know yet about funeral arrangements, but said Grace Episcopal Church usually conducts a memorial service in conjunction with Jubilee House, its day-time refuge for the homeless.

“That’s more for the guests as a way to mourn,” Hannon said.

Hannon said 74 homeless people stayed at the church Thursday night, a record number for Safe Harbor.

“Seventy-four is mind-boggling,” Starkel said. “That’s really a big problem. I think because the weather came so quickly, it took people living on the street off-guard. A lot can live on the street in the 20s and 30s.”

Starkel said he noticed a sharp uptick in numbers when he visited the Jubilee House in mid-November.

“I’d say their main floor is no more than 800-square feet,” he said. “Last time I was there, people were practically standing everywhere. That was surreal to me. Nowhere to sit. It was like a waiting room.”