Traverse City Set To Discuss Rules For Emergency Shelters

Mar 28, 2014

The debate over homeless shelters in Traverse City will go to a sub-committee on Monday. Traverse City’s planning commission wants a recommendation about where emergency homeless shelters will be allowed in city limits.

There are currently no shelters in the city, but one has been suggested. The proposed homeless shelter within city limits has been a controversial issue lately.

Russ Soyring, planning director for the city, says the facilities are a safety net.

"It’s really to help people out in a more threatening type situation. It's brutally cold out," he said. "Someplace that they can be safe, and it’s not just to be a shelter for homeless, but it really is to get them out of a dangerous type of condition where they might freeze to death so that’s really what we’re writing the regulations for an emergency shelter."

An emergency shelter is defined as a facility operated by the government or a non-profit organization and providing minimal support services for homeless people.

Soyring, planning director for the city, says there are several factors in deciding the location.

"Some of the things that we’re looking at is that it’s located close to transit, that it’s connected with sidewalks," he said. "It seems like that’s really important aspects of locating a shelter that is going to be useful and convenient for people that are homeless."

Soyring says people will not be residing in the facility, but simply show up in the evening for a warm and safe place to sleep and then leave in the morning. 

He isn't worried about the public concerns: "When we were dealing with other uses, like the transit center, we had the same type of response," he said. "(An emergency shelter) is a need in the community. It’s a legitimate use in the community." 

The committee’s recommendation will eventually go the city commission.