SCIO TOWNSHIP (WWJ/AP) - Residents of a homeless “tent city” near a highway west of Ann Arbor were told they had til midnight Thursday to clear out their belongings.
The state imposed the deadline, announcing it would put up an 8-foot fence around the area to keep people from returning to the site that’s known as “Camp Take Notice”. It’s on state land.
The shutdown comes after complaints from area residents about the use of the site as a homeless encampment.
Jeff Cranson, with the Michigan Department of Transportation, said they have worked for several months to find residents other housing.
“It’s unsafe. People cross the highways. It sits between, you know, two major expressways — M-14 and I-94 — and it’s not sanitary, doesn’t have running water,” said Cranson.
“Housing advocates across the country say that … tent cities are not a longterm solution to homelessness, that a home is a home. It’s a domicile with a door and a roof,” he said.
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority is working on a program that provides camp residents with one year’s rent.
“Most of the residents are very understanding. Many are already accepting the subsides and are very happy about it,” said Cranson. “Some don’t wanna live in housing — don’t wanna live in shelters, for a variety of reason, and they’re going to find alternative housing. There’s talk of finding another camp.”
Camp co-founder Tate Williams said the camp was set up two years ago to provide a safe and supportive environment to help homeless residents get back on their feet.
Williams said many of the near-70 people in the camp suffer from disabilities including mental illness.
WWJ Newsradio 950′s Sandra McNeil spoke with Katie Wildfong who has lived in the camp for about three months. She said she and 50 others don’t intend to leave.
“Really, they’re just trying to make the homeless less visible, you know. They’re not solving any problems,” Wildfong. They’re giving a few people a year of free housing when the real issue is affordable housing for everybody.”
Wildfong has an associate’s degree. She said she looks for work every day and plans to go back to school.
Another resident, 51-year-old Al Skinner, hasn’t been able to find a job in almost two years.
“I’ve had two interviews, but, you know … they’re hiring younger people,” said Skinner.
He’s bitter over the camp’s closing.
“I feel sad and I feel really angry with … I guess the Ann Arbor community in a sense. A lot of them just have no pity whatsoever. They think of us as dirt,” Skinner said. “And you know what the truth is? A lot of them are one paycheck away from being here themselves.”
The state has said anyone at the camp could be cited for trespassing beginning Friday morning.
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