Goodwill, city team up on housing plan for chronically homeless

May 3—TRAVERSE CITY — Apartments in a former resort in Traverse City might quickly change into residence for as many as 27 individuals presently with out shelter.

That’s if city commissioners conform to a $360,000 service contract with Goodwill Northern Michigan that City Manager Liz Vogel is planning to request on Monday.

Goodwill Northern Michigan is in search of to bridge a 12 months lengthy hole in funding for East Bay Flats, an house constructing on Munson Avenue that it purchased in November, Vogel mentioned.

The city fee will meet after Safe Harbor, an in a single day homeless shelter on Wellington Street, closed for the season April 30. Each of its visitors needed to discover some other place to spend the evening, and a number of other went to a wooded space close to Eleventh and Division streets referred to as the Pines.

“I just think that this is a moment in time to step up to the mark,” Vogel mentioned, “and Goodwill’s come and made an ask that’s going to help get 27 people who are chronically homeless, most of whom will be in the Pines — if they aren’t there already — into housing.

“I imply, that is actual, that is as actual because it will get, and that is unimaginable.”

Goodwill Northern Michigan already secured Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the state in April, and a tax break from the city in November, as reported in the Record-Eagle.

Both of these combine to help underwrite the nonprofit’s plans to turn up to 63 of East Bay Flats’ apartments into homes for people facing chronic homelessness, who have a documented disability or who are fleeing domestic violence.

But the state housing agency won’t award those tax credits until June 2025, Vogel said. So the service agreement between city and nonprofit could fund and start the program even sooner.

Dan Buron, Goodwill Northern Michigan’s executive director, said the first 27 will be people facing an acute need for housing. That means they’ve been unhoused for a year or more, are the most likely to die if they remain so and have a disability. East Bay Flats can move in 17 by August, then 10 more by January. That’s as current residents move out, and in keeping with the pace at which the nonprofit can work.

The remaining 36 units would be for people facing homelessness, but not necessarily chronic, Buron said.

Services will include housing-based case management at East Bay Flats, Vogel said. Residents there could also access services for mental health, substance abuse or employment assistance for as long as they need it.

“The objective via HBCM is to guarantee that the people who find themselves moved in, that they efficiently retain their housing and so they have alternatives for private progress and growth,” Vogel said.

Goodwill Northern Michigan needs to swap its current loan for the apartment building to a permanent one, meaning it’ll last for the 30-year life of the tax credits, Buron said.

Illinois Facilities Fund, a community development financial institution, is interested in providing one, and both Rotary Charities of Traverse City and the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation kicked in $1 million each to IFF.

These donations will help support low-cost financing for affordable housing in and around Traverse City, said Dave Mengebier, president of the community foundation. And that goes beyond East Bay Flats.

Partnerships between government, private and philanthropic sectors are the sort of cooperation needed to tackle homelessness, Northwest Michigan Coalition to End Homelessness Director Ashley Halladay-Schmandt said.

“It’s going to take each sector of the group to actually get behind this if we need to construct sufficient housing for individuals who want it, and particularly our most susceptible neighbors,” she said.

Separately, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation helped raise about $50,000 to place two rental portable toilets, two “pageant sinks” — like the plastic, foot-powered sinks on East Front Street during its 2020 closure — and two solar benches, Vogel said. Those benches will have one outlet on each end so people can charge their mobile phones.

This comes after community members and organizations working on homelessness issues told city administrators the Pines needs sanitary solutions, Vogel said. Although the eventual goal is to end camping there, in the meantime, the city must acknowledge that people are staying there, she said.

Both sinks and portable toilets should be in place by mid-May, Vogel said. Plans are to place them in a more visible location and have them under surveillance to avoid the previous problems of vandalism and misuse.

Mengebier said the community foundation approached Vogel with the idea for a way to meet some of the basic needs of people staying at the Pines. By approaching other funders like Rotary Charities and the Oleson Foundation, GTRCF was able to put its resources and know-how to use in addressing a big issue the community is facing.

“It’s time for the group to collectively take into consideration how are we going to handle our homelessness drawback right here in Traverse City and regionally,” he mentioned.

Looking forward, city commissioners may even take into account a draft finances that features one other group police officer and social employee for the city’s Quick Response Team, Vogel mentioned. Adding each positions via the 2024-25 finances, which she’ll hand off to commissioners Monday for adoption no later than June 3, goal to handle homelessness-related points within the medium- to long run.

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