Volunteers, host sites sought for Safe Harbor

MANISTEE — Since 2009, Love INC’s Safe Harbor program has opened doors to the area’s homeless, providing meals and shelter to individuals and families at rotating host sites during the coldest months of the year.

Its success, however, has always depended on donated space and volunteers. And with the new season for Safe Harbor fast approaching, organizers are still seeking both.

“Currently we have one community location — (the Intermediate School District) — and a handful of churches signed up to be host sites, but we still have (numerous) weeks yet to be filled,” said Lisa Clarke, Love INC’s Family Services director. “Locations need to be large, heat-controlled safe spaces with bathrooms, where we can section off rooms to separate men, women and families.”

The rotating shelter program runs every night through the winter from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Volunteer gatekeepers and overnight staff are necessary.

“If we don’t have volunteers, we can’t pull it off,” Clarke said. “Last year we ran the program for (nearly 350 nights) and had only half the (ideal) man power. So, a lot of volunteers had to double and triple up shifts.

“It’s very rewarding work, and it isn’t hard,” she said. “You can talk, play games or read books. We just need to have staff through the night.”

Those interested in volunteering, or organizations willing to donate space for week-long increments, are asked to contact Clarke at (231) 723-6613 or visit the local Love INC office, located at 390 River St., Suite 103.

Safe Harbor is slated to start on Nov. 4 at the Manistee United Methodist Church, located at 387 First St. in Manistee. The church will serve as the first shelter site of the season, hosting the program from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. from Nov. 4 to Nov. 11.

For each night of Safe Harbor, check-in is from 6-8 p.m. while guests must check out by 8 the following morning. Dinner and breakfast is provided.

Clarke said Safe Harbor is much more than a place to stay for the night.

“When we have a guest come in, we provide a meal and a place to sleep, but we also try to identify their barriers to stable housing,” she explained. “We find things like unemployment, addiction or abusive situations in their current living arrangement. Some have jobs and income, but not the documentation they need to rent a place.

“We don’t provide money or anything, but we work with them to build a bridge or a path — connect them with the right people or agencies — to help them toward stable, permanent housing.”

Clarke said the program has had a high success rate in that pursuit.

“Last year, we served 34 individuals and more than 70 percent of our guests were able to find permanent housing by the end of the season,” she said. “Through the years, a lot of our guests have come back as volunteers, because they want to give back.”

And giving is the essence of Safe Harbor in the first place.

“As human beings — no matter if it’s based on religion or not — we truthfully should have a concern for our fellow man,” Clarke said. “Period.”

avatar

Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply