The First Years

2003, the First Church of the Nazarene in Traverse City began offering a community meal program for homeless people. Later that same year, they added an emergency overnight shelter on the coldest nights. In the first season, as many as twenty-six guests per night were staying in the church.


The following year, several other churches became involved, and the program became a rotating shelter throughout the winter months. By the 2011-2012 season, Safe Harbor provided 5,540 bed-nights and more than 11,000 meals to 158 different homeless men and women.


In 2013, demand created a need for permanent shelter. After an extensive search, a group of volunteers was approached by City Commissioner Jim Carruthers with an offer to help connect us to 517 Wellington Street (which was being used for storage and slated for disposal by the city).


As we end the 2022 season, in the over 180 days in operation, Safe Harbor’s volunteer army hosted almost 10,000 bed nights and served over 22,500 meals as we hosted our guests for 14 hours each day (all day during blizzards and unsafe temperatures). This represents 295 unique individuals (20% women) who sought shelter with us because they had no other option.


As has always been the case, our volunteer organization provides this important community safety net without government funding or support.

Timeline of Development

  • 2013 – Searching and Jim’s Suggestion
  • February 2014 – Brought a Lease Proposal to City Commission
  • Summer 2014 – Reapproached as a Non-Profit Corporation
  • Summer 2014 – New Zoning Created
  • August 2014 – Safe Harbor Applies for SLUP
  • January 2015 – SLUP is issued
  • Summer 2015 – We Welcome Marty Colburn
  • Fall 2015 – Offer to purchase 517 Wellington is sent to the city
  • March 2016 – Purchase Agreement Signed
  • July 15, 2016 – Safe Harbor buys 517 Wellington
  • July 17, 2016 – Our first donor
  • November 2016 – Construction begins
  • October 2017 – Construction Ends
  • November 2017 – Operations begin at 517 Wellington Street

517 Wellington prior to purchase (2015)

Roof leaked
Mold in 50% of building
No functioning HVAC
Flooding issues from alley (now Station Street) into the kitchen area
No drainage or water management
Parking lot dilapidated

Investment to 517 Wellington

Building Purchase
New Roof
Complete gutting of interior
Replacement of siding
New awnings
New Parking Lot
Structural reinforcement
New HVAC / Electrical / Plumbing
Rain water draining field
All new doors / windows
Polished all floors
Refreshed landscaping
Guest bathrooms
7 Bathroom Stalls
11 Showers
5 Sleeping areas for 82 guests
Commercial Kitchen
9 Interior office sized rooms
2 additional restrooms
Total investment $1,700,000

Safe Harbor 517 Wellington Grand Opening (November 2017)

Safe Harbor Today
State of the art bedding
“Operations Center” 14 Video Cameras
Shower and automated lighting control
Keyless Entry System
Commercial Kitchen (Able to handle a 90 person capacity)
11 Showers
Laundry facilities
Housing and Human Resource Center (Spaces available for housing partners)
Fully appointed medical and behavioral health spaces
TV Room, Chapel, Check In Center
Guest Computer Workstations
Cell phone charging lockers