Ann Arbor’s Camp Take Notice getting the attention in Europe than it deserves the U.S.

I just received a note from a U.S. expatriate living in France, asking me to confirm whether or not what he’d heard today on the BBC about a homeless encampment on the outskirts of Ann Arbor was indeed true… Sadly, I had to tell him that Camp Take Notice was in fact real.

Here’s a clip from the BBC story:

…According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line – the most in half a century – fuelled by several years of high unemployment.

One of the largest tented camps is in Florida and is now home to around 300 people. Others have sprung up in New Jersey and Portland.

In the Ann Arbor camp, Alana Gehringer, 23, has had a hacking cough for the last four months.

“The black mould – it was on our pillows, it was on our blankets, we were literally rubbing our faces in it sleeping every night,” she said of wintering in a tent.

The camp is run by the residents themselves, with the help of a local charity group. Calls have come in from the hospital emergency room, the local police and the local homeless shelter to see if they can send in more.

“Last night, for example, we got a call saying they had six that couldn’t make it into the shelter and… they were hoping that we could place them… So we usually get calls, around nine or 10 a night,” said Brian Durance, a camp organiser.

Michigan’s Republican-controlled state government has been locked into a programme of severe budget cuts in an attempt to balance its books.

The cuts have included benefits for many of the state’s poorest residents.

Between the cuts and the economic conditions pinching, there is increased pressure on homeless shelters.

Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor, Brian Calley, was asked about the reality of public agencies in his state suggesting the homeless live in tents.

“That is absolutely not acceptable, and we have to take steps and policies in order to make sure that those people have the skills they need to be independent, and it won’t happen overnight,” he said…

I’m I understanding that correctly… Our public agencies are directing the homeless into the forrest to live?

And, as if that weren’t heartbreaking enough, the article is accompanied by video, shot in a U.S. public school, of young children talking to a British reporter about what it’s like to go to bed hungry, and, in the case of one young girl, what it’s like to have to eat rats in order to survive.

I wonder if our public agencies in Michigan are also telling people how to trap, clean, and prepare rat.

It’s inconceivable to me that we’ve allowed this to happen in the United States. It’s absolutely shameful what we’ve allowed to happen in order to preserve the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy… Is this the kind of country that we want to live in – one in which are poor are told to fend for themselves in the forest, eating rats?

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12 Comments

  1. Josh
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Jared Angle covered this story a few months ago in a publication called Street Voice. Check it out! It’s called “Homeless, but still home.”

    http://www.washtenawvoice.com/street-voice/

  2. Edward
    Posted February 14, 2012 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    It reminds me of this quote:

    “To me one of the most exciting things in the world is being poor. Survival is such an exciting challenge. There was a study done about twenty years ago, I think at Harvard, which said that the average family of four could live on $68 a year. That’s a balanced diet–everything they need for a year. Now today that might be $250 or $300, but when we see these people in line at supermarkets with all these food stamps, buying potato chips and snack foods and ice cream, I mean, give me a break! That’s poverty?”

    — Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza

  3. John Galt
    Posted February 14, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Rats are a super food. Lots of oily protein. What we should do is stop garbage pick up in poor neighborhoods, so that the rat populations swell. It would be a win-win. The poor would be able to feed themselves (without food stamps), and we’d save a great deal of tax payer money. Wouldn’t that be incredible?

  4. anonymous
    Posted February 14, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I know that you were just joking when you suggested that we start a nutria colony on Water Street, and empower our people to feed themselves. (There you go, being like Emperor Norton, with those visionary ideas, again.) But I wonder how far we are away from having serious discussions like this.

    http://markmaynard.com/2011/01/invasivore-efforts-to-install-a-nutria-colony-in-ypsilantis-riverside-park/

  5. K2
    Posted February 14, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    If I didn’t know better, I’d say the BBC video was a propaganda piece put together by one of our nation’s enemies. I’m not suggesting that they don’t have a point, but it looks like something the government of North Korea would be showing its people.

  6. Mr. X
    Posted February 14, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the link, Josh. I had no idea that the students at Washtenaw were turning out such meaningful work on the subject of homelessness. The Ann Arbor News should take notice.

  7. Meta
    Posted February 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    An email from Calley that went out today. Not surprisingly, it leaves out the fact that people are living in tent cities around the state and public schools are closing left and right.

    The Reinvention of Michigan continues to gain momentum with an update from The Tax Foundation that improves the state’s corporate tax ranking in the State Business Tax Climate Index from 49th to 7th in the nation. Additionally, Michigan’s personal income tax system was ranked 11th in the nation by The Tax Foundation.

    Once again, the nation is taking notice of the bold reforms that are driving Michigan forward. The tax reforms we made in 2011 dramatically improved the state’s tax ranking and are further proof that the best way to boost Michigan’s economy and improve the quality of life for all is to create an environment that encourages job growth and innovation.

    The reforms are playing a key role in driving Michigan’s turnaround. The confidence that Michigan is on the right track helped to create 80,000 private-sector jobs in the state last year that contributed to our declining unemployment rate.

    In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder and the legislature reformed Michigan’s tax system, eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and implementing a flat 6 percent corporate tax. The new Corporate Income Tax, which took effect January 1, is the most competitive in the Midwest and among the best in the nation.

    The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index measures which states have the most neutral, simplest, most business-friendly tax structures. In its evaluation, the Tax Foundation wrote, “It is clear that this set of reforms is a major improvement for Michigan’s business tax system.”

  8. Thom Elliott
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    People have no context for these problems, if all they ever hear is that poverty is a moral failing and that if you’re saved by Jesus the Lord of Hosts then you’ll clearly be blessed, then it doesn’t even show up on the radar. The hated pizza mogul’s critique is exactly what our tragically blind “middle class” sees; the complete domination of the poor by the invented needs of our brutal consumerism, which they then interpret as fake poverty that they could get out of anytime if they weren’t so lazy and wasteful. We resent poverty here, we think that the terrible schools creating emotionally impaired chronically malnurished ignorent people in postindustrial ruins with zero prospects for non. criminal lives is their fault, so we can sleep in our warm beds in comforted by the knowledge of our intrinisc superiority.

  9. Meta
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Ann Arbor dotcom covered the camp today. According to their headline, it’s apparently not that bad.

    ‘It’s been a mild winter’ for 2 dozen homeless living in tent city near Ann Arbor”

    http://www.annarbor.com/news/sense-of-community-grows-within-homeless-camp-despite-winter-chill/

  10. Ypsiosaurus Wrecks
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Let me put this in context:
    There are those who live at “camp take notice” that do have social security (financial) benefits and choose not to pay for an apartment. There are also those who have the option of staying at the Delonis center but prefer to use substances and avoid the shelter because they know they have to pass a breathalyzer test to gain entry. These individuals choose to be homeless and do not deserve any sympathy. There are others who are actually disenfranchised and have no place to go. CTN does serve a very real purpose but not all who stay there are actually in need.

  11. Meta
    Posted June 24, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    For those who haven’t been keeping track, the residents of Camp Take Notice were evicted yesterday. Here’s an update from board member Peggy Lynch.

    FROM PEGGY LYNCH, MISSION board member:

    Hello friends – Because we know that many of you are wondering what is happening with Camp Take Notice and our campers, this provides a brief update. If you have follow up questions, we’ll do our best to respond.

    (1) TODAY– Sunday, June 24 at 6:00 p.m. we WILL have our regular camp dinner, followed by community meeting at 7:00 p.m. MDOT is allowing CTN campers and MISSION to clean up the site and remove possessions through Sunday. So, we could use help tomorrow moring possessions our of the Wagner Road site. Brian Durrance is leading this effort and is asking people to come to camp at 11:00 a.m. to help. It would be a very kind thing to show your care and concern by joining us tomorrow night for dinner and the meeting.

    Monday morning at 10:00 a.m., one of the woodstoves will be moved out. After 10:00 a.m. Monday, we understand Michigan State Police are likely to ensure no one remains on the site. So, our best understanding right now is that everyone — campers and supporters — who want to participate in our normal community dinner and meeting tomorrow will be allowed to do so. If we get there and anything seems otherwise, we will move the party to Bel-Mark Lanes for pizza. We believe it will be comforting for the campers to have some sense of routine and community. As always, it will also be good for supporters to gather with the campers.

    (2) MONDAY, June 25 at 6:00 p.m., Westminster Presbyterian will provide dinner for the campers at Peggy’s house — 1327 White Street, Ann Arbor 48104. All are not only welcome, but needed. We will follow dinner with a “what next” planning meeting, to start at 7:30 p.m. We are particularly hoping for members of the faith community to help brainstorm and begin planning for CTN’s next phase.

    (3) With regard to our beloved, campers, we believe 33 to 34 of the original 68 have been approved for subsidized housing. Of course, this makes no provision for the 3 to 5 people each week who had been coming to camp before eviction proceedings began. We are glad for those, however, who are getting the one year subsidized housing. Westminster Presbyterian’s Cathi King has graciously taken the lead in helping provide assistance to campers moving into subsidized housing.

    No one has yet gotten into subsidized housing. Meanwhile, MDOT has said everyone must leave CTN and most if not all campers have relocated. MISSION (and I believe PORT and WHA as well) asked MDOT to defer eviction until people could get into subsidized housing. MDOT refused. So, even campers who will get subsidized housing are in extremely stressful situations.

    MDOT originally told the campers that they would be put up in hotels if bridging became necessary. That has not materialized. Instead, Delonis has opened its cafeteria and allows those campers who will get subsidized housing to sleep on yoga mats. Those campers need to be out, with all of their possessions (except those that fit into a small locker), by approximately 7:30 each morning, since Delonis needs to use the cafeteria for other purposes. They can’t return until evening. After speaking with campers, my understanding is that only about 17 former campers are taking the opportunity to sleep on the shelter’s yoga mats.

    Since only 17 people are sleeping at Delonis, most campers have had to relocate to other outside locations. With the help of our faith community and Brian Durrance, campers have moved their tents, sometimes in clusters of two or three campers. (Thank God, some of the very most fragile campers are being cared for by other campers.) We are aware of several such clusters of former campers who, upon relocation to new camp sites, were immediately “evicted” again by law enforcement. So, after leaving CTN, the police continue to evict campers from their new smaller camp locations. This is happening despite the campers’ efforts to remain unseen by, for example, moving after dark and staying in secluded areas.

    (4) Based on at least two very recent conversations with Mark Ouimet’s office, Mark Ouimet’s position is that ONLY Governor Snyder can do anything with regard to CTN’s eviction. It is important to continue calling Governor Snyder, as well as Mark Ouimrt’s office, Rebekah Warren’s office and MDOT directly, to register your opposition to CTN’s eviction. The fact that Mr. Ouimet’s office is pointing the finger of responsibility at Governor Snyder constitutes a bit of progress. Our officials need to know CTN is strongly supported by our community and that eviction has not stopped that support.

    Finally, I wanted to pass along a particularly lovely observation from a camper. Earlier today, I was at camp during the clean up/move out. One camper looked at the wreckage of what had been a beautiful, healing community and sadly observed that five years of hard work had gone down the tubes. A second camper, in an exasperated tone of voice, got up from his chair and pointed at it exclaiming, “Look at that chair!! That is all you are seeing!! Don’t you realize that the really important things are not this chair or that cooler or that tent? Those things are irrelevant. Open your eyes!! What MATTERS is that we have created a COMMUNITY and that COMMUNITY remains. It just needs a place.” So, to echo the wisdom of a homeless man, the CTN community remains. We invite you to remain with us as a member.

    In love and gratitude – Peggy

  12. Posted January 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I am working on creating a webpage devoted to
    documenting all of the many brutal homeless camp
    evictions in California:

    California Homelessness Reporter
    http://www.california-homelessness-reporter.org/sample-page/homelessness-camp-evictions/

    Please let me know of you learn of any more!

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