Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Dann’s House located?

The Dann’s House Board is leasing a private residence in the Grand Traverse area. With the full understanding and permission of the property owner, we are renting rooms in that residence to tenants of our choosing. The location is undisclosed in order to guard the safety and privacy of our tenants.

What results have you seen since Dann’s House opened?

Dann’s House has been open since August 1, 2014. In the two years since then, 26 men have lived at the house, up to 8 at a time.

  • 8 have moved on to independent housing.
  • 6 are expected to move into independent housing soon
  • 5 have been reunited with their families
  • 1 died of cancer, safe and warm and free of pain, because while he was at Dann’s House he was able to go to the doctor and receive a diagnosis, treatment, and hospice care
  • 1 reduced his alcohol intake enough to discover that his medical problems that had been blamed on his drinking were actually more serious, and he moved to a nursing facility near his family
  • Several moved out and have not kept in touch
  • All have greatly reduced the amount of alcohol they consume
  • All are receiving, or have applied for, the benefits that they are entitled to, like food assistance, Medicaid, and Social Security/disability
  • All are receiving appropriate care for their physical and mental health, many for the first time in years. This means that they are no longer over-using the Emergency Department
  • Most of the current residents are employed or volunteering, or looking for work

How have you achieved these results?

The transformation in these men’s lives begins with having a roof over their heads. Policy specialists call this “Housing First,” an approach that has found that simply having a safe place to live has a tremendous positive effect on all the other challenges that people might be facing.

Paid professional staff and volunteers support the Dann’s House residents in improving their lives. A Case Manager works with them to set goals for their lives and access the benefits that they are entitled to. A House Administrator helps them to assess their health needs; make and keep appointments with health care professionals, social workers, and counselors; maintain their medications regimens; and seek employment or volunteer work. Other house staff and volunteers provide a supportive presence and assistance with activities of daily living.

Isn’t Dann’s House just a party house?

No. Alcohol is permitted, but not provided to the residents. We have policies and procedures in place, modelled after those of other successful houses. The members of the household form their own community and determine further house rules, including providing input on who else can move in to the house, as well as guidelines for having visitors, which maintain the stability of the house atmosphere and the considerations of being good neighbors. In fact, the most immediate neighbors have children, and have renewed their lease.

Doesn’t this just enable their addiction?

There is no data to support the theory that allowing residents to drink enables, supports, encourages, or worsens their disease. That kind of thinking actually represents a misconception about addiction: that people with alcohol use disorder are having so much fun drinking that they will never stop unless they are forced to.

In fact, the data support the success of the Harm Reduction model that Dann’s House follows. Harm Reduction is an approach designed to reduce the harmful consequences of high-risk activities by supporting people where they are without judgment. It has been proven to reduce residents’ drinking and health problems, whereas programs that attempt to force abstinence just set people up to fail.

Residents at a similar house in Seattle participated in a study that found that:

  • residents reduced their daily intake of alcohol by 50% and their heaviest intake by 35% over 2 years
  • every 3 months residents consumed 8% fewer drinks on their heaviest drinking days
  • the occurrence of delirium tremens, or DTs, which are potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, was reduced by more than half
  • the program cost the city 53% less than was spent on people on a waiting list in taxpayer-funded services like police, ambulance, hospitalizations, jail bed nights, prosecutions, emergency room visits, detox programs, etc.

In  its first two years of operation, Dann’s House has seen similar results.

Is Dann’s House a recovery treatment program?

Traditional recovery programs require complete abstinence from alcohol or drugs. Residents at Dann’s House are permitted to drink their own alcohol, just as anyone else is permitted to drink in their own home.

The 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) describes Alcohol Use Disorder as a set of 11 symptoms. The presence of 6 or more prompts a diagnosis of Severe AUD. Any reduction of symptoms is now considered part of the process of recovery.

Following this model, which is the latest in the recovery industry, Dann’s House could be described as supporting recovery. However, no counseling, therapy, 12-Step programs, or treatment are provided at Dann’s House. Residents are encouraged and assisted in pursuing such supports if they desire.

Why should we provide housing for people who choose to drink?

The American Medical Association (AMA) declared alcoholism to be a disease in 1956. In 1991, the AMA classified alcoholism under both psychiatric and medical sections according to the International Classification of Diseases. The Federal Fair Housing Act includes chronic alcoholism in the category of disabilities that protect people from discrimination in housing. Alcoholism is a disease, not a choice. People who have chronic, active alcohol use disorder do not choose to drink; they no longer have the power of choice over alcohol. They are ill and vulnerable, and deserve to have a roof over their heads.

Do residents live there for free?

No. Residents are expected to contribute to the cost of their housing, whether through earned income or Social Security / Disability income, determined according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development formula of up to 30% of their income. Residents who have no income are expected to apply for benefits. There are common areas of the house, and an organized approach to maintaining them, and there are specially trained staff and volunteers present to provide support and assistance.

Why should my taxpayer dollars go to support people who don’t contribute to society?

Dann’s House uses no taxpayer dollars. Beyond the rent that residents pay, it is supported through grants and donations.

Dann’s House is actually reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on people who have experienced chronic homelessness and severe Alcohol Use Disorder. Reports from the Traverse City Police Department indicate a 95% drop in police calls for service on Dann’s House residents for offenses like trespassing, drunkenness, and disorderliness. The residents are also using significantly less publicly funded services like jail time, detox center use, hospital-based medical services, alcohol and drug programs, and emergency medical services. Because they are receiving medical care, they are no longer disproportionately using the Emergency Department.

Dann’s House residents are drinking much less alcohol and seeing improvements in their health. They are employed, volunteering, and making other contributions to society. They shovel their neighbor’s walkways in the winter. They have cooked and served dinner at Safe Harbor, and worked to clean up campsites used by people experiencing homelessness.

Why do we need Dann’s House when we already have the Goodwill Inn and Safe Harbor?

Dann’s House is a unique and essential part of the continuum of care for people experiencing homelessness. It is not an emergency shelter. It is not a treatment program. It provides transitional and supportive housing for a particular population.

In order to be housed at the Goodwill Inn homeless shelter, residents must demonstrate abstinence by blowing into a breathalyzer. Also, people can only stay there for 90 days, and must leave during the day.

Safe Harbor, a collaboration of churches that shelter people experiencing homelessness, operates only in the winter. When it closes in the spring, there is an increase of community problems due to the presence on the street of people who have no home. Guests are not allowed to bring alcohol in to the churches that host Safe Harbor, so people with severe AUD tend to consume all the alcohol they have before entering Safe Harbor. This can be dangerous and even fatal. Since Dann’s House opened, Safe Harbor has seen a reduction in guests who are chronically homeless. Dann’s House is entirely separate from Safe Harbor’s current plans to create a permanent emergency shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

How much support is there for Dann’s House in the community?

The Dann’s House volunteer Board of Directors includes the Chief of the Traverse City Police force, one of the co-founders of the Safe Harbor program for people experiencing homelessness, the former director of Grand Valley State University’s Master in Social Work program at Northwestern Michigan College, a local educator who is the sister of Dann McCarthy, for whom the house was named, and more.

There is a small base of volunteers who work in the house, providing a supportive, supervisory presence. Even more people have volunteered to serve on committees, including the former director of Munson Hospital’s Emergency Room, members of the local recovery community, leaders in local churches, and more.

The more people know about Dann’s House and how it works, the more supportive they are. Traverse City is a town that cares.

How are Dann’s House residents chosen?

Dann’s House is specifically intended for people who have been chronically homeless and chronically addicted to alcohol. The Case Manager and Board members work with other agencies that address homelessness, including Goodwill Street Outreach, Northern Michigan Supportive Housing, and other members of the Continuum of Care. Together, we identify people who would benefit from living at Dann’s House and who seem to be able to live in the community of the house. Current residents also provide input into the decision-making.