TRAVERSE CITY—The homeless streamed into the Jubilee House on Washington Street with red hands and numb toes, grateful to have a warm place to go.
The shelter run by Grace Episcopal Church extended hours Monday and today to ensure no one is left out in the bitter cold. Shelter volunteer Rich Tomey said the community is protecting its most vulnerable citizens in the face of this week’s bitter weather.
“We’re here until 5:30 (p.m.) so they have a place to stay warm,” Tomey said. “It’s staying busy. It’s just a house and we have 50 to 60 people a day.”
Many of the homeless make their way to Safe Harbor after the Jubilee House closes. Safe Harbor is run by a network of churches, providing free meals and emergency shelter at night.
“This is no weather for a human,” said Bill Jimerly, 67, a formerly homeless man who continues to frequent Jubilee House to stay in touch with friends.
This week’s cold weather brought out the volunteer spirit in the city — a man walking near the parking lot of the Central United Methodist Church sprang to action when he saw Fred Buchanan, a homeless man, fall on his face on the snowy pavement Monday morning. He picked up Buchanan and helped him to the back entrance of the church, which serves daily breakfasts and provides showers. Buchanan was emotional and fearful he might die this winter.
“I’m frozen. Look at me!” he cried.
Buchanan said he didn’t sleep Sunday night at Faith Reformed Church, a Safe Harbor member, but he couldn’t remember where he slept.
“I slept in a snow bank,” Buchanan said. “I walked there from someplace and it got too cold, and I decided it was a little nippy and got up. I had to get up out of there.”
Buchanan’s friend Brad Huston was thankful there are shelter opportunities like the Jubilee House and Safe Harbor in Traverse City.
“Please write this,” he said. “The community support for the homeless is just tremendous.”
Three men took shelter Monday morning underneath an overhang outside of Central United Methodist to share a cigarette. They, too, expressed appreciation for services to help the homeless considering the freezing temperatures. James O’Riley, Jr. said he was grateful a woman gave him a pair of winter boots a few days ago in the church parking lot.
“Traverse City is a good place to be if you’re homeless,” said O’Riley, although he added that an increasing number of stores are turning him and others away.
His friend Jerry Mathews praised the House of Doggs restaurant for giving out free meals. Mark Straight, reading a tiny Bible inside Central Methodist United Church Monday morning, hopes to take one of 10 available beds at Goodwill Homeless Shelter on Keystone Road, where donations of hand warmers, hats boots and gloves are being accepted.
Straight said he arrived in Traverse City a few days ago on a bus to reconnect with his teenage daughter in Thompsonville. He needs a job and a place to stay.
“I am just trusting the Lord,” he said. “I believe He’ll orchestrate things and provide a way.”