Community Update on Initiatives Addressing Homelessness: May 2024

May 2, 2024

Community Update on Initiatives Addressing Homelessness
Summer 2024 Priorities

As the winter emergency shelter in Traverse City prepared for seasonal closure on April 30, 2024, the City of Traverse City, alongside area stakeholders, philanthropic organizations, and homeless service providers, is pleased to announce a partnership aimed at addressing the immediate needs of the homeless population, particularly at the Pines, an area within Traverse City with a homeless encampment. 

“While the need for permanent and temporary year-round shelter for the area’s unhoused population continues to be explored, addressing the needs for safety and public health at the Pines in summer 2024 is crucial. We have heard from our neighbors and are working toward alleviating the impact on our residents, specifically in the Boardman and Central Neighborhoods, while at the same time increasing safety for people staying in the Pines. Nevertheless, we recognize that the unhoused individuals within the Pines are in urgent need of basic necessities, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to safeguarding public health. We value our collaboration with local organizations to swiftly provide essential services while remaining focused on achieving our long-term goals, such as supporting permanent supportive housing," stated City Manager Liz Vogel.

Short Term Goals – Immediate Action at the Pines

The City’s ongoing efforts to minimize the impact of the Pines include enforcement measures to restrict growth within specific areas, and ensuring adherence to expectations for unhoused individuals. With the financial support of local philanthropy, this summer, the City is taking proactive steps to enhance sanitation services at the Pines. Two portable restrooms and two sinks will be installed near the dumpster along Eleventh Street. Regular servicing and surveillance will be implemented.
Additionally, in an effort to ease strain on local businesses and public spaces while ensuring access to communication, the City will also install two benches equipped with solar powered charging stations in the same area. 

These services were made possible through the support of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, area organizations such as Rotary Charities, Oleson Foundation, Huckle Foundation, e Foundation, BurdcoInc., Mack and Lorraine Beers, and several other donors who are together providing $50,000 in funding to ensure the unhoused have access to basic needs this summer.

 “The Community Foundation, Rotary Charities and other area funders are committed to helping alleviate the immediate challenges faced by our areas homeless population and to work with our governmental and non-profit partners to create permanent housing and support services for our unhoused residents.  As a community, we have the talent, we have the resources, and the know-how to move the needle on the homelessness crisis in our region,” Dave Mengebier, President and CEO, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.

The primary objective of the City’s partnerships is to establish facilities that not only meet the short-term sanitary needs of people experiencing homelessness, but also prioritize safety and public health. Furthermore, the City will continue its commitment to preserving ongoing efforts aimed at restoring the water quality of Kids Creek, which borders the encampments within the Pines. As the need is imminent, restroom facilities and the installation of solar powered bench charging stations are vital in ensuring that residents at the Pines can maintain communication with providers that meet basic needs, while also helping people work toward permanent housing.

These facilities represent just one facet of a comprehensive continuum of care designed to help meet the needs of the unhoused population while they work toward permanent housing. The City and community are actively engaged in initiatives such as the City’s Quick Response Team, The TC Street Medicine program, East Bay Flats, Safe Harbor, faith-based food pantries, and the development of permanent supportive housing. Most recently, Munson Healthcare contributed $300,000 to enhance the Street Medicine program run by Traverse Health Clinic, Munson and Goodwill of Northern Michigan extending its reach to accommodate the expanding Pines encampment and provide on-the-spot non-emergency medical care

“In tandem with expanding our TC Street Medicine program this summer to provide medical care for those experiencing homelessness, we are heartened by our community’s collective commitment to compassion for our neighbors in the most vulnerable of circumstances,” said Dr. Klee, physician with Munson Healthcare & the TC Street Medicine team. “We look forward to continuing to work alongside all of our community partners to care for and support people on their journey to finding long-term housing.”

Long-Term Goals: Sustainable Solutions & Budgetary Recommendations

In addition to the short term goals, long term solutions continue to be addressed. City Administration will be making several budgetary recommendations related to addressing housing designated for people experiencing chronic homelessness. 

  • Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan acquired East Bay Flats in November 2023 and secured LIHTC funding in March 2024. Permanent rental subsidy attached to the units at East Bay Flats will not become available until June 2025. Therefore, the City has been approached to provide the funding gap to permanently house 17 chronically homeless individuals by August 2024 and another 10 by January 2025. City Administration will be recommending a FY ’23-’24 budget amendment to provide the gap funding. 
  • City Administration plans to recommend the addition of a Community Police Officer and a second embedded Police Social Worker in the FY '24-'25 budget. The new officer will enable expanded community policing in the NOBO District and Boardman Neighborhood, allowing an existing officer to focus on the Pines and Central Neighborhood. The additional Police Social Worker will join the Quick Response Team, which collaborates with 50 community partners to assist individuals facing crises, which can include homelessness, with wrap around services such as, substance use, and mental health, including overdose response. These efforts are part of a broader coordinated Homeless Response System aimed at ensuring homelessness becomes rare, brief and one-time in our community. The homeless response system works to streamline access to the supports and services needed to end someone’s experience of homelessness as quickly as possible.  We encourage community cooperation to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
  • City Administration is recommending funding in the FY ’24 -’25 budget to relaunch Community Court and intends to initiate contact with Grand Traverse County to collaborate. Community Court is a specialized court program designed to address the legal issues of individuals experiencing homelessness in a supportive and rehabilitative environment. The goal is to resolve legal matters that may be barriers to obtaining housing, employment, and other services critical for the transition out of homelessness.