Emergency Homeless Shelters Ordinance On the Move

More than a hundred people showed up to tonight’s commissioners meeting in Traverse City to voice their opinion on several key issues.

Commissioners discussed some controversial issues which drew in a large crowd.

One of the biggest debates was over a zoning change that would allow an emergency shelter in the city limits. Safe Harbor is a traveling shelter during the winter months to help those experiencing homelessness. “Emergency shelter in the winter time is really death prevention, it’s not a fun place to be, it’s not cozy but it is warm and it’s out of the cold,” says Ryan Hannon, chairperson of Safe Harbor.

Hannon says the number is continuing to grow, so much so that Safe Harbor saw more than 70 people in one night and that’s too many for one church to hold. “It’s important for Traverse City to consider rezoning for emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness because there currently isn’t any zoning wording in the zoning for emergency shelters,” says Hannon.

Commissioners are looking into the proposed 100 bed emergency shelter that would be at the old Boys and Girls Club on Wellington Street. But many in the area are concerned. “Why does the homeless shelter have to be in downtown Traverse City where year round the community of Traverse City relies on vacation dollars,” says John Cunningham who lives near the proposed shelter.

Many voiced that 100 beds is way too many. But in the end, the commissioners voted to continue with the proposal and will vote in a few weeks on whether to approve it. “I’m very disappointed that the city commissioners aren’t taking a longer look at this,” says Cunningham. “We don’t want to have to turn anyone away during the winter time that’s experiencing homelessness on the streets,” says Hannon.

The commissioners voted 5 to 1 on the zoning ordinance with mayor Estes being the only one against it. They will vote again on the approval in two weeks.