The Grand Traverse region needs to approach homelessness by furthering the plan to end it. Safe Harbor’s collaboration of 23 churches and approximately 2,000 volunteers has been providing emergency shelter and meals in the neighborhoods of Traverse City to our most vulnerable fellow citizens for 10 years.
Since 2012, we have seen an increase of 85 percent in the number of people seeking shelter during the winter months. The increased need has pushed many of our churches beyond the comfortable capacity to host on a nightly basis. We are seeking a permanent location to be able to continue providing a safe place for people experiencing homelessness on the street.
Safe Harbor is committed to providing basic needs to people in our area who need it most and the idea of using a building only changes the operation from hosting through rotating church buildings to churches hosting through one building.
Seventy four percent of the street homeless we serve are from Grand Traverse County, they were raised here, and get their assistance here. This building proposal is a big asset in this battle towards ending homelessness. There already exists a network of support, including community meals, a drop-in warming center, transportation assistance, housing programs, substance abuse counseling, mental health support, and the compassion that individuals offer anonymously every day.
Many of these services are also reaching their capacity. By increasing access to these resources, we can provide space for: completing paperwork required for assistance; allowing mentors to meet and plan; welcoming housing agencies to take applications; and housing health care providers to treat and counsel.
The Traverse City area continues to increase its vibrancy and position itself as a premier destination for tourism and business. This opportunity to participate in the betterment of our most vulnerable citizens only reflects the greatness of our area. This building will be a vastly improved resource to reach this community, who often lack the self-sufficiency to transition to permanent housing.
We believe we have a moral and civic duty to address homelessness, and the most effective solution will require the resources of a public and private collaboration. Safe Harbor’s 10 years of experience in this cause makes it clear that our proposal is the best plan for our community and for the use of the building at 517 Wellington.
For more information on this issue, visit www.GTSafeHarbor.org/building. You will find the complete proposal, answers to the questions we have been asked, and a matrix of the support that exists for the homeless in the Grand Traverse region.
About the author: Ryan Hannon is chairperson of the Safe Harbor Steering Committee. He has worked with people experiencing homelessness in our community for seven years.
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