Safe Harbor Shelter

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

The Safe Harbor homeless shelter in Traverse City is partially re-opening due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In late March the seasonal facility announced they were closing early to prevent guests from catching or spreading the diease. 

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Across the state millions of Michiganders are staying at home after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a "stay at home" order for at least the next three weeks. But what if you don’t have a home? The order makes no mention of people experiencing homelessness.

The harbormaster in Leland says the federal government needs to spend emergency funds to dredge the channel there. The channel is about six feet deep, the minimum needed for large yachts and the Mishe-Mokwa, the largest ferryboat that takes visitors to the Manitou Islands.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ district office in Detroit has recommended that emergency funds be used to dredge the channel between Lake Michigan and Leland, but that decision will be made at the national level.

Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse

The Safe Harbor homeless shelter in Traverse City will have a permanent home. Monday night, the city commission agreed to sell an unused city building on Wellington Street to Safe Harbor for $50,000.

The deal says the building must be a functioning shelter by 2018. After 10 years of operation, Safe Harbor would own the property outright.

Safe Harbor Board Chairman Peter Starkel said his group is ready for the next step.

The Traverse City Human Rights Commission thinks homeless people in Traverse City are being treated unfairly. The commission passed a non-binding “Bill of Rights” for homeless people at its meeting last night.

The document lists ten rights, including being able to move freely “without harassment or intimidation.” Commissioner Patricia Nugent says the idea came after the commission heard about some of the abuses suffered by homeless people.

Safe Harbor gets 'yes' vote from TC commission

Nov 18, 2014
Aaron Selbig

Traverse City commissioners gave their approval Monday night to turn a city-owned building into an emergency homeless shelter. The five-to-two vote came after a long and contentious debate that has sharply divided the community. 

Before Monday night’s vote, the public had one more chance to weigh in the proposed Safe Harbor shelter.  Opponents– many of whom live and work in the neighborhood where it would be located – voiced concerns about safety and the potential cost to the city. 

Planners give OK to Safe Harbor proposal

Oct 8, 2014
Aaron Selbig

The Traverse City Planning Commission has approved a controversial plan to open a homeless shelter off Eighth Street. The 5-to-3 vote came after another long round of public hearing last night.

Supporters of the Safe Harbor shelter say it’s needed to keep the city’s homeless population safe during the harsh winter months. But many local residents in the Boardman neighborhood say the shelter will lower property values and pose a danger to nearby schools.

Commissioner Tim Werner says the whole idea of the shelter is to keep the homeless off the streets.

A controversial plan to build a homeless shelter off Eighth Street, near the troubled Traverse City business corridor, faces a critical Tuesday night. The Planning Commission will take public comment and possibly vote to move the proposal to the city commission.

Christie Minervini, fundraising chair for Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse Inc., says she’s been rallying supporters ahead of the meeting. But she worries some will stay home because of a confusing headline on the front page of the Traverse City Record-Eagle Monday.

A coalition of churches now hopes to open a shelter in Traverse City with 90 beds sometime early in 2015. Safe Harbor submitted formal paperwork today.

City leaders recently approved new zoning rules that would allow a shelter of up to 100 beds. But some neighbors near this proposed shelter have complained that would be too large for the area.

Safe Harbor Chairman Peter Starkel says the group is responding to concerns.

Homeless People Are Becoming Writers In Traverse City

Jul 22, 2014
David Cassleman

Some homeless people in Traverse City are writing stories for the first time in their lives.

They’re doing it for a new magazine called “Speak Up Traverse City” -- that launches this week.

Organizers of the magazine have formed a writing workshop, where homeless people are finding their voices as writers.   


Traverse City Defines Rules For Homeless Shelters

Jul 8, 2014

In a split vote Monday, the Traverse City Commission gave final approval to new rules governing homeless shelters. The move paves the way for formal debate over a specific emergency shelter proposal. Safe Harbor, which is made up of a consortium of churches that take turns housing the homeless in the winter months, wants to open a 100-bed facility off Eighth Street on Wellington.

Leaders of Safe Harbor say they believe their plans will pass muster under these new rules, and they hope to open Traverse City’s first homeless shelter before the end of the year.

Tuesday night, new rules for homeless shelters in Traverse City moved a step closer to becoming law. Planning Commissioners voted five-to-three to send the zoning changes on for debate at the full city commission. The move to establish these rules comes as city residents debate a proposal from Safe Harbor to build the city’s first overnight shelter facility.


Traverse City expects a big turnout next month for a public hearing on emergency homeless shelters.

There are no specific zoning guidelines today.

Under the proposal, emergency shelters would be allowed in 10 city districts.

A section of Wellington Street where a consortium of churches would like to run a shelter does fall within one of those districts.

But City Planner Russ Soyring says there would be more hurdles for the group to cross, if these rules were adopted.

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.

Linda Stephan

As Traverse City residents debate plans for a new overnight shelter, some members of the homeless community feel they’ve gotten a bad rap. Some of the volunteers who work with them agree.

“We could not continue our program in our church building if this community of people was as violent and as dangerous as some people in the city have imagined,” Central United Methodist Church Member Sandra McDonald told a crowd last week at the Traverse Area District Library.

Linda Stephan

Dramatic growth in the homeless population of Traverse City has brought more attention to the issue. But it’s not clear whether that will help efforts to build a new overnight shelter in the city.

Neighborhood Concerns

There’s been some bad press in recent years. In 2012, city leaders began banning alcohol in some parks as a way to curb problems caused by a certain segment of the homeless population. The problem has also grown more visible on the streets, something long-time resident Bryan Olshove has noticed.

Safe Harbor To Modify Homeless Shelter Proposal

Feb 18, 2014

Leaders of a church-based homeless shelter in Traverse City will modify their proposal to lease a city building.

Safe Harbor has never had a building of its own. The winter shelter service moves from church to church, typically every week or two. Steering Committee Member Jeff Lewis says the group would like to lease building on Wellington Street for a dollar a month. The building once housed the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Lewis says the original proposal submitted to the city described services Safe Harbor won’t be able to offer right away offer right away.