Kalamazoo Closing Homeless Encampment September 29th. Now What?
The City of Kalamazoo has announced it will be closing the homeless encampment along Ampersee Street on Wednesday, September 29th, at 5pm. The reason given is it's a health and safety issue.
“While we recognize the complex systemic and personal factors that result in encampments, the current situation at the Ampersee encampment presents significant risk to the health, safety, and well-being of those living at the encampment, those providing onsite services and supports, and those living and working nearby. Based on the concerns shared by encampment residents, nearby residents and business owners, increased rates of violence and crime, and guidance from the CoC Board on the criteria for safe encampments, the City is proceeding with a plan to close the Ampersee encampment at the end of the month.” - Sara Jacobs, Director of the Kalamazoo County Continuum of Care (CoC).
This decision leads to a very important question. If you close this encampment, then what? This is the second encampment the city has closed this year. The first one, along Mills Street, was closed in April. This situation is different in that you have likely colder and harsher weather coming as Fall moves into October and November.
In a release, the City says two groups are being tasked with finding alternative living space for the approximately 150 individuals at the encampment. The Kalamazoo County Continuum of Care's Outreach Services Group will be coordinating supportive services, and the Shelter Providers Group is coordinating shelter services.
Indicating this move has been in the works, members of these two groups have been at the encampment every day, working to connect residents to emergency shelter, housing, and support services. The release says there are currently more than 150 people living at the encampment, and they've been able to hook several residents with possible housing/shelter.
Once the site is closed, the city will embark on a clean-up effort, which will include "an extensive river clean-up being coordinated with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)".