Homeless shelter in need of a good home

Safe Harbor is looking to expand its services into a permanent building rather than continuing with the rotating plan.

The Safe Harbor coalition of churches says it's outgrown its current method of serving the homeless community.

Safe Harbor currently uses area churches to provide shelter and hot meals for the homeless during the winter.

Traverse City commissioners heard more about a proposal to create a new year-round location at Monday nightâ??s study session.

Safe Harbor is asking for a 5-year-lease on city owned property located at 517 Wellington Street. The building used to be home to the boys and girls club.

Organizers said the number of people using the program has doubled in just two years and they need a bigger building in order to help everyone.

More than 20 area churches join together, providing meals, mattresses, and a place to stay. Each week, the emergency shelter rotates from church to church, but those churches are feeling the squeeze. In 2012, Safe Harbor averaged 33 guests a night. The past few weeks, they've averaged nearly 70 guests a night. That's why they want to move into the city-owned building on Wellington.

â??The idea is to keep the churches coming into the building and rotating week to week that way,â?? said Ryan Hannon, Safe Harbor committee chairman, â??rather than at each of the churches because we're beyond our comfortable capacity.â??

â??More and more people are becoming homeless; their numbers are rising,â?? said Commissioner Jim Carruthers. â??This is a challenging time for us, a challenging time for our citizens. But when it's minus ten degrees outside, I don't want to see anybody freezing to death in the woods.â??

Under the proposal, the building would become a year-round homeless shelter.

â??Most people would say the classic, "not in my backyard,"â?? said Robin Pearson of Traverse City, â??but we already have them in our backyard.â??

â??This is a centralized location to community health, to various food programs that are available, to all the area churches that provide support,â?? said Carruthers.

The new facility would also help connect homeless people to agencies and programs.

â??It would certainly expand the capacity for street outreach to work with clients there,â?? said Hannon.

â??I'm very proud of our city and the services we have here,â?? said Pearson.

Commissioners decided to pursue the issue further. Safe Harbor will be able to bring a finalized proposal before the commission in the upcoming months.

Safe Harbor is asking to pay the city a dollar every month for the building, which is the same as what the current tenants, the Traverse City Film Festival, has been paying.