Sunrise Mission opting out of gov’t funding

ALPENA — Organizers at the Sunrise Mission, Alpena’s homeless shelter, will be opting out of taking an estimated $100,000 in government funding this year because of a rule change.

Director John Ritter said the funding, which is distrubuted to the shelter through the State of Michigan from federal sources, comes with a new caveat concerning drugs and alcohol.

“With all due respect to the state a recent directive concerning operation of the mission has pushed us to end our partnership, that being that we run a ‘low barrier’ shelter,” Ritter said. “In layman’s terms this means persons can come in under the influence of drugs or alcohol and not be asked to leave unless they are disruptive or threatening. This runs contrary to everything we believe, based on experience in these matters, that is detrimental to the person involved.”

The funding change will mean the shelter must rely on public donations and other sources of funding for the 2018 fiscal year.

Ritter said the shelter’s decision not to take the funding means a 30 percent reduction overall in funding. He hoped the funding could be made up from other sources that make up most of the annual budget.

“(We get donations from) private sources, businesses, churches and community resources. We get some United Way money and things of that nature,” he said.

Ritter said for many years it has been the policy of the shelter to not allow people under the influence into the shelter for a few reasons, one being that many who are utilizing the shelter are in recovery from substance abuse.

He said for those in recovery it can be a hard situation to be around someone actively using substances. He said there also is a safety issue that arises.

“Drugs and alcohol are notorious for behavior changes,” Ritter stated in a director’s report. “You can go from sedate to inferno in short order. Nobody, not staff or guests, need that type of exposure.”

This is not to say that someone who may be drunk is “tossed away,” Ritter said.

“Depending on the level of intoxication they may be referred to Sunrise Centre (a drug rehabilitation clinic) or taken to the hospital, or they may be asked to come back hours later, and if you’re testing less intoxicated they could be admitted that one time, if felt that it was safe for everyone,” he said. “This has been the policy for a long time and it works quite well for us.”

Ritter said not allowing people who are using into the shelter actually can work as an incentive for people to get clean.

“You’re not getting anywhere if you’re continuing to use. You’re not going to hold a job, you’re not going to be able to maintain any kind of relationship,” he said.

Ritter said many of the shelter stake holders already have been informed of the change through a quarterly newsletter. He said he hopes the shelter can continue to operate at its current capacity into the coming year with the help of the community.

“Hopefully they would step up and agree with us and increase their giving,” Ritter said. “(The shelter) keeps people off the street. We’re the last stop before the street. They come in and we case manage and otherwise help them find resources in the community, find houses, find jobs, any kind of support things that they are dealing with.”

Ritter said the best way to help the shelter is funding donations

“The funding is the best thing because life is expensive and we have the same expenses as any business staff,” Ritter said.

But there also are other needed items such as toiletries, canned food, freezer meat, towels and wash cloths, new pillows, laundry soap and diapers, among other items.

More information about helping with the shelter can be found by calling 356-1277 or by visiting

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.