KALAMAZOO, MI — The Kalamazoo Planning Commission approved a request for a single-family home in the Vine Neighborhood to house victims of human trafficking.
The planing commission considered the issue at its Thursday, Nov. 7, meeting, and voted to approve the request.
The YWCA requested a special use permit to allow a transitional residence for up to 14 people in the house, located in the south end of the Vine Neighborhood.
The Kalamazoo Gazette is choosing not to publish the specific location of the house at the request of the YWCA, and out of concern for the safety of future residents.
A 1,771-square-foot, single-family house on the property has six bedrooms and three full bathrooms and is located in a residential neighborhood.
City staff recommended the special use permit request be granted.
Community members came to Thursday’s meeting to voice their opinions on the proposal. Some spoke in support of approval, while others expressed concerns.
The YWCA recommendation states letters were hand-delivered to neighbors near the home. Some residents speaking said they did not receive a letter and found out about the meeting another way.
Security cameras and a staff person will be present at the site 24 hours a day, the recommendation states.
The housing will be the only shelter of its kind in Southwest Michigan that allows men, women and children, YWCA said.
Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, etc., of people through force, fraud or coercion — for sex or labor trafficking, the recommendation states.
The shelter is meant to provide “urgent safety” for people coming out of trafficking situations and trauma. It will help re-acclimate them to everyday life, according to information on the program included in the recommendation. Client safety is the most crucial concern of the YWCA, the document states.
YWCA of Kalamazoo Director of Emergency Response Services Sherry Brockway said victims of labor trafficking sometimes have lost all their personal documents, and many have language barriers.
Victims of trafficking have been through trauma and the housing is meant to help them get back to a more normal life, she said. Staff at the YWCA can help them find help to find support after their stay, as they eventually transition into a different place to live, Brockway said.
Residents can stay at the facility for 90 days, she said, with the possibility of extensions up to a maximum stay of one year.
Planning commission member Coreen Ellis abstained from the vote Thursday. Ellis works for YWCA, according to her Linkedin profile.
YWCA Kalamazoo’s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families and strengthen communities, according to the organization.