Community Update on Initiatives Addressing Homelessness

March 1, 2024

Community Update on Initiatives Addressing Homelessness
Feasibility for Year-Round Shelter in Summer 2024

In 2023, the City of Traverse City initiated collaborative efforts with local partners to address the crisis unfolding at the Pines, an area within Traverse City with a homeless encampment. Recognizing the pressing need for sustained attention and cooperation, the City worked closely with various stakeholders to brainstorm solutions.

The discussions primarily centered on finding a secure, clean, and compassionate temporary shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness, ensuring the safety and well-being of both residents and responders. This short-term measure aimed to buy time for devising a comprehensive long-term strategy.

By September 2023, the City took proactive steps by enlisting the support of the Northwest Michigan Coalition to End Homelessness to tackle both immediate and enduring housing challenges for the unhoused population. Collaborating with Grand Traverse County and the Coalition, the City explored various options, including purchasing land, repurposing campgrounds, and repurposing existing structures.

Ultimately, it became evident that expanding Safe Harbor's operations year-round offered the most efficient and cost-effective solution to address the crisis at the Pines, and the City approached Safe Harbor to further explore the feasibility. Recognizing the need for formalized agreements, particularly with new leadership in place at the City, transparency was prioritized by establishing a Memorandum of Understanding with its partners in January 2024, and soliciting community feedback.

Safe Harbor, which currently operates as a seasonal winter shelter under a Special Land Use Permit issued by the City in 2014, would require substantial planning and resources to transition into a year-round facility. Considerations such as facility upgrades, operational logistics, funding strategies, public safety protocols, community involvement, and permit approvals are integral to the process.

After thorough assessments and extensive community input, it was determined that transitioning Safe Harbor into a year-round shelter wasn't feasible for 2024. Funding for infrastructure and operations are required, in addition to the development of a comprehensive safety plan. However, the City remains committed to ongoing collaboration with its partners to explore future possibilities. Meanwhile, immediate preparations will need to be underway to address the situation at the Pines in the upcoming summer of 2024.

"As we navigate the complexities of addressing homelessness in our city, it's clear that this issue is multifaceted. However, with dedication, collaboration, and the support of our residents and community at large, we believe we can find sustainable solutions to ensure the well-being of all individuals in Traverse City. As we anticipate that the crisis at the Pines will likely persist into the summer of 2024, it becomes even more imperative to work closely with our partners and responders to ensure the safety and security of those affected," stated Liz Vogel, City Manager. “We appreciate the input received from our neighbors and empathize with their experiences. However, there is a critical need to work together on a compassionate response to those experiencing homelessness.”

Housing & Homelessness Efforts in the City of Traverse City

In a significant stride toward inclusive housing, the City approved a number of PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes). Supporting affordable housing initiatives in Traverse City is essential to ensure that all residents, regardless of income, have access to safe and stable living environments, promoting social equity and stability within the community.

In late 2022, Michigan passed a law allowing local governments to establish PILOT policies and engage in agreements with developers working on workforce housing, without the previous requirement of obtaining state or federal tax credits. Before this change, developers had to compete for low-income housing tax credits from MSHDA, limiting local government participation in PILOTs.

In 2023, the City approved 381 inclusive housing units through PILOT arrangements, and a total of 539 since 2019. These PILOT arrangements account for 35 permanent supportive housing units for the chronically unhoused.

The City was awarded a 2% grant from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians and provided the matching dollars to support day operations at Jubilee House.

In 2022, the Traverse City Police Department hired a Police Social Worker Coordinator, Jennifer Holm, who now facilitates a Quick Response Team, which has built relationships with 42 community partners to support individuals experiencing crises related to homelessness, substance use and mental health, and provides overdose response. The Homeless Response System is a coordinated effort to provide and not duplicate resources for housing. The Basic Needs Coalition provides items in coordinated ways for distribution to individuals experiencing homelessness. We encourage people to seek the supports that are available in the community and work together to provide for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. 

In addition, the Traverse City Police Department has assigned a Patrol Officer to the NOBO Neighborhood and The Pines.

Get Involved

Shelter Resources

  • Central Housing Intake, (844) 900-0500
  • NMCAA (NW Michigan Community Action Agency)/HARA, 3963 Three Mile Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686, 1 (844) 900-0500
  • Goodwill Inn, 2943 N Keystone Rd. Traverse City, MI 49686, (231) 922-4890
  • Oasis (Cadillac), 118 S. Mitchell St. Cadillac, MI 49601, (231) 775-7233
  • Pete’s Place/Third Level Street Outreach Services, 2943 N Keystone Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686, (231) 922-4800 or 1 (800) 442-7315
  • Safe Harbor, 517 Wellington St. Traverse City, MI 49686,  (seasonal)
  • Women’s Resource Center, 720 S Elmwood Ave, Traverse City, MI 49684, (231) 941-1210

Additional Resources