Safe Harbor ready to shelter homeless

Safe Harbor concludes on Saturday morning. The program that gives homeless persons a nightly meal and a warm place to stay, rotates around churches and spent its final week at the First Congregational Church in Manistee. (Dave Yarnell/Staff Writer)

Safe Harbor concludes on Saturday morning. The program that gives homeless persons a nightly meal and a warm place to stay, rotates around churches and spent its final week at the First Congregational Church in Manistee. (Dave Yarnell/Staff Writer)

MANISTEE — As cold weather settles in, and homelessness increases in Manistee County, the need for shelter will likely rise.

To help meet that need, Safe Harbor, a gap ministry of Love INC, provides overnight stays to men, women and children along with dinner, breakfast and help toward long term solutions to homelessness. It is a moving, volunteer-operated shelter sponsored by many local churches.

The season will begin at 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 at United Methodist Church of Manistee. Those in need may arrive at the shelter between 6 and 8 p.m., after 8 p.m. they can arrive with a police escort. The program provides transportation to the shelter at 6 p.m. from Family Dollar in Manistee, and then from the shelter to either Family Dollar or Paine Aquatic Center for showers at 8 a.m.

“Safe Harbor provides shelter to those who have no where else to go,” said Catrina Brown, Love INC volunteer coordinator. “Without Safe Harbor, 27 adults and three children would have been without shelter and left out in the cold last winter.”

According to Robin Paulus, Love INC director, half of those who stay at Safe Harbor are veterans.

The shelter is open every night through the winter months, during the 2013-14 season, it was open for nearly five months. It moves from church to church on a weekly basis.

Safe Harbor daily schedule

6 p.m.: Pick up at Family Dollar in Manistee

6 to 8 p.m.: Shelter intake

After 8 p.m.: Shelter intake with police escort

8 a.m.: Transportation to Family Dollar or Paine Aquatic Center

“(The shelter) sprung out of an idea of Love INC and was handed to someone else to develop,” said Lisa Bishop, Love INC Family Life Services director. “We see a need, and then find a church to host it or find a group to develop that program. We saw a need for a homeless shelter in the winter months. We mobilize the talents of each church to meet the needs of the community.”

There are 266 homeless individuals in Manistee County, according to the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report provided by Goodwill Homeless Prevention. Last year, there were 258 homeless that Goodwill counted. These statistics are based off the individuals that the agencies dealing with homelessness are conscious of, there are others in the county that are unaccounted for.

As a result of cold weather settling in earlier this year compounded with last year’s harsh winter, Bishop said she expects demand to increase.

“A lot of people might not have caught up on the heating bills from last year,” she said. “We have a lot of people calling already needing help with heating, and it hasn’t started snowing yet. Many people are already staying with relatives, and people are concerned because it’s not winter yet, and more people see will increased heating bills. People are requesting heating help earlier this year. Last year we were getting calls until May with problems from winter heating, and here we are already turning our heat on. We may have a bigger number and a tougher time this year.”

Luckily, the shelter will not turn people away, Brown said.

“It’s not just for single men, that’s a big misconception,” she said. “We are set up for women, men and families.”

Those who stay receive more than a couple hot meals and a place to sleep, Brown said.

“We won’t just shelter them, and then shove them out in the spring,” Brown said. “We work with them all winter so they don’t have to come back to us. We educate them all winter long.”

Bishop said: “We find out what it would take to get them on their own, and set them in the right direction. We’re not there just to meet the temporary, immediate need, we’re also meeting the long-term needs.”

But to do that, many volunteers are needed every night.

“Safe Harbor is a 100 percent volunteer-run operation, and we depend on the community for support to keep us going,” Brown said. “We are in need of visitors, transporters, meals and especially men and women to spend the night with our homeless clients.”

For more information, or to volunteer, contact Brown at (231) 723-6613 ext. 16 or catrinab@loveincmanistee.org.

“There’s a preconceived notion of what homelessness is,” Brown said. “They’re not going to hurt you. That’s very important for people to understand. We’re not a big intercity shelter; the safety and danger concerns are not really (applicable).”

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Posted by Justine McGuire

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