Proposed shelter draws divided crowd

The proposed permanent shelter would include sleeping quarters for both men and women as well as restrooms and showers.

Community members got some answers to their questions regarding a proposed permanent homeless shelter on Wellington Street near Eighth Street in Traverse City.

Nearly a hundred people came out to the meeting at the Traverse Area District Library Woodmere branch Monday night, voicing their concerns and their approval of the plan, as well as their need for more information.

â??I support the shelter because it's the right thing to do,â?? said one approving resident.

Another echoed the sentiments. â??Please support this. You need it.â??

But not everybody was on board.

â??This is the wrong location.â??

â??Emergency shelters are no longer thought of as a good part of the continuum of services.â??

The Safe Harbor coalition of churches is proposing to turn the vacant Traverse City building, formerly the Boys and Girls Club, into a year-round resource center and winter shelter for the homeless community.

The building at 517 Wellington would be operated from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

The proposal gets good revues from some, but many said the location is poor. So where is the ideal location?

â??No, this isnâ??t a typical residential neighborhood, but there are businesses, there are property owners, there are residential people.â??

â??It's really very difficult to place this. When you look at the logic of where services are provided, the opportunity for folks to move amongst current services provided to access downtown, it makes sense. I don't think this use is going to jeopardize the safety of the children utilizing that park.â??

Some people who live and work in the area are concerned it will affect their nearby businesses.

â??I'm concerned about customers coming to my doors and having issues coming into my doors because they don't feel comfortable coming down the street.â??

Others would rather see the land used for something else that could possibly enhance sales.

â??Put in a third theater, put in a beautiful park, put in a parking deck, put in another restaurant.â??

A couple people spoke about their past experiences with homelessness and the impact that shelters had in keeping them safe.

â??When I was 18, I was homeless for about 2 and a half seasons.â??

â??It kind of helps to get a job if you've had a shower first. It really does.â??

Even people who donâ??t live within city limits wanted to voice their support of the proposal.

â??What's the best way I can help you support this program being that I don't live in the city?â??

A reverend connected with the Jubilee House said the proposal is a starting point, but there are many things that need to be worked on.

â??We need to be working on affordable housing. All those areas continue to need work.â??

Many people agreed.

â??If we want to help them get better, let's put them in the â??usâ?? category.â??

â??This isn't rocket science. This is just solving a human problem a human way.â??

Safe Harbor is holding another meeting Wednesday night. It's geared mainly toward the Boardman neighborhood, and answering any questions they may have about the shelter possibly moving in next door.

The City Commission will next discuss the proposal at its March 17 meeting.