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Officials Ask Homeless To Leave Camp Near Freeway

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) – Police in Battle Creek have warned eight homeless people camping near an interstate interchange that they must leave by Saturday.

The warning follows a letter from the Michigan Department of Transportation asking for eviction, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported. Local officials have been trying to arrange housing and the state hopes those living at the camp will go to a shelter, if needed.

“Frankly it’s a safety issue and obviously a public health issue as well,” said Nick Schirripa, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation, on whose land the wooded area near Interstate 194 is situated. “It’s not equipped to be a home or a camp as well.”

Steven Smith, or “Smitty,” said he’s been living in the camp since May. Smith said some choose not to go to shelters earlier in part because belongings can get stolen. He said he is among the fortunate, since he may have housing by the end of the week.

“The other people down there have nowhere to go,” he said.

The warning comes as cold December temperatures set in. Deputy Chief James Saylor, of the Battle Creek police department, said officers are working to assist with the relocation. He said even if residents of the camp don’t want to leave it is a better option than allowing them to stay.

“At the end of the day though, if all else fails arrest may be the only option,” Saylor said. “It’s a sad social issue that is presenting a real safety risk to those in that camp.”

Plans to move those living at the camp have been in the works for months, Schirripa said.

“With the number of agencies involved and the number of details that had to be worked out it took time to get to the point of action,” Schirripa said. “Police evict the folks living there; once we had all the pieces and details in place that’s when we were able to move forward.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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