UPDATE 7/27/23 11:38 p.m.
The Fife Lake Township monthly board meeting was a bit more crowded and contentious than usual as a nonprofit called Exodus Place announced plans to acquire the Pugsley Correctional Facility in Grand Traverse County.
Thursday night’s meeting was just supposed to be an introduction to their plans of turning the Pugsley Correctional Facility into transitional housing for the homeless. However, after concerns were raised during public comment, the nonprofit decided to pull the plan before even officially applying.
Exodus Place is a nonprofit that currently has a facility in Grand Rapids that is designed to provide temporary housing for homeless people until they can afford a place of their own. The project they introduced to the board Thursday night would bring 1,000 new housing units, 300 being temporary housing and 700 being workforce housing.
However, people at Thursday night’s meeting weren’t sold on the idea.
“We do not have anywhere near as much information to judge this system. My concern is that it is an old model,” one woman said.
Despite Exodus Place’s plans to renovate the facility, people raised a number of concerns. Questions were raised over how people living at the facility will get transportation and whether or not it would bring more crime to the area.
One woman who spoke during public comment Thursday night said she lives less than a quarter-of-a-mile away from the facility. She said the thought of the project going through was bringing her nightmares.
“This is our community. We moved here for a reason, peace, quiet and safety. That’s going to be gone. Don’t let him fool you, that will be gone,” she exclaimed.
No decision was supposed to be made Thursday night as Exodus Place still hadn’t turned in an application for the township’s planning commission to review. However, at the end of the meeting Exodus Place’s CEO Robb Munger announced they would pull the project due to the number of concerns brought up during public comment.
7/26/23 6:24 p.m.
A Northern Michigan correctional facility may soon be a place to house the homeless and provide more affordable housing.
Pugsley’s Correctional Facility in Kingsley was a minimum security prison that was shut down back in 2016. And now, the Grand Rapids Based Exodus Place is looking to expand it’s operations to Northern Michigan.
Robb Munger, president and CEO of Exodus Place, says the 105 acres and the number of buildings at the prison is what drew him to the property. Munger said Exodus Place wants to buy the property to expand their existing operations to accommodate 300 transitional housing units and 700 workforce apartments.
“What we would do is we’d start with a transitional park. We have a couple of employers that would like to rent buildings from us already on site to put people to work because they’re looking for employees. And then, as we grow, we would actually do micro apartments where it’s a fee based.”
Munger said Exodus Place hopes to provide support to help solve the homeless issue, not just treat it temporarily. The expansion would include mental health support, job readiness training, substance abuse counseling and housing assistance.
“Our sweet spot is we’re transitional housing, so we bridge the gap from being homeless and being in a rescued situation to getting into an apartment or a house,” Munger said. “Or it could be some other. We’ve had guys come in and they go to hospice or nursing homes or adult foster care.”
Munger said he’s reached out to Fife Lake township about the plans, and will be at Thursday night’s meeting to answer questions. However, Ryan Hannon, who works closely with the homeless population, sounded off on the proposed project.
“No one from Exodus Place ahs reached out to any of the partners in the work to end homelessness,” Hannon said. “Also, the idea of transitional housing is an outdated model. It doesn’t fit with our housing first approach where we help people who are homeless without preconditions get into a house and then help them with their ailments if they choose afterwards.”
He did acknowledge that homelessness and affordable housing is an issue for Northern Michigan, and one he knows all too well.