State agencies are helping several homeless folks find a place to live, or temporary shelter, following the closing of a tent city in Ann Arbor.
The Michigan Department of Transportation, or MDOT, released a video on Monday that explains the reason behind the camp closure.
“This is just not something the department can allow for a lot of different reasons,” said Mark Sweeney with MDOT. “Safety - because of the proximity to the freeway, sanitation - because there is no running water…so quite simply, it’s a liability for the state,” he said.
The video also highlights the problem of homeless. State agencies were called on to help relocate some residents. Camp Take Notice organizers said the camp served a purpose and helped people get back on their feet.
About 70 homeless people stayed at the tent city known as Camp Take Notice. But they were told to pack up and move out.
“You know, right now, this whole situation is very surreal. It feels like we are just going through the motions...I’m really going to miss it, you know, I’m just gonna miss the people," said Mary Contrucci.
Scott Ellinger and his girlfriend lived at the camp for a few months. He said, "It was a tight-knit community here, we were like family. Everybody looked out for each other."
"We really haven’t had any major problems out here. Except for a few minor incidences. We had one fire, which was accidental," said Ellinger.
It’s accidents like the fire that broke out a few months ago that state officials want to avoid. Sally Harrison is director of Rental Assistance and Homeless Solutions for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
State officials are preparing to cordon off a stretch of highway median near Ann Arbor to keep the homeless out.
As AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton reports, the site is home to Camp Take Notice, a homeless community encampment that is scheduled to be shut down tomorrow. To make sure it remains unoccupied, the Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns the land, is erecting an 8-foot fence around the 9-acre site.
MDOT and the state housing authority, Stanton says, are working to provide camp residents with rent assistance and, in some cases, help moving into subsidized housing, but authorities have made it clear that residing at the campsite is no longer an option.
"We've been hearing from the community and from Camp Take Notice that the homeless have been using this area for a long time as a makeshift home," [an MDOT regional manager, Mark] Sweeney said, adding there have been complaints from nearby residents that the homeless have left the area a mess.
"We really wanted to resolve the issue once and for all," he said. "So after the camp is closed, we'll be closing off the area."
Sweeney added, "It's not against Camp Take Notice specifically, but more to prevent a homeless encampment of any kind in this location."
About 70 people took part in a rally to show support for a tent city near Ann Arbor.
It's called "Camp Take Notice," and it's been on state-owned land for more than two years. The 65 people who live there are worried their days there are numbered.
David Williams has been staying at the camp for a year. "If we lose this camp it would be difficult for me to find another safe environment to live. And I hope that people understand that. Anyone can be homeless. Homelessness is not prejudice," he said.
Organizers want a commitment from the state to allow people to continue living at the site. But one neighbor, who asked not to be named, said he'd like to see the camp gone.
"There have been reports of stolen property down there. You don't necessarily feel comfortable being outside or outside alone towards the evening. And like I said, they are not bad people, that's not the problem. It's the element that goes along with it," the neighbor said.
Jeff Cranson, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said the state has been working with the camp's organizers for a couple of years. He said there are no immediate eviction plans, but that the tent city is not safe and residents will need to relocate. Cranson said a fire broke out a few months ago and emergency crews had difficultly getting water to the site.
He said another state agency is working to find alternative housing for the camp's residents.
Michigan Radio visited the camp in the fall of 2011.