Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

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.

From AnnArbor.com:

"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."

Earlier this year, Michigan Radio's Mercedes Mejia visited Camp Take Notice and spoke with residents about life there. You can see a video of those conversations below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Flickr user rawmustard

Graduation parties are in full-swing right now. If you had stumbled upon one recent graduation party in Howell, you would have found picnic food, party games, and a live DJ. But there was something unique about this celebration.

The seven students here celebrating their high school diplomas are also homeless. (An additional student earned a GED.)


New posters in downtown Ann Arbor businesses will ask visitors to stop giving money to panhandlers.  The effort by the mayor's office and businesses asks people to give money to local resources for the homeless instead. 

The posters say panhandlers often use the money to buy drugs and alcohol.  This concerns some local homeless residents.  They say this isn't always the case.  

Emily Fox

Even though summer has just begun, I recently visited three women who were sewing coats in a big, old industrial building in Detroit. Their goal is to make 800 coats for the homeless this year.

This isn’t just any winter coat. While it looks like a super warm jacket with an oversized hood, there’s a little flap at the bottom for your feet. This coat can double as a sleeping bag. And when it’s hot, it can be folded up into an over the shoulder satchel.


Last week, the identity of "real-life superhero Bee Sting" was revealed at an arraignment.

Now we know that "Bee Sting" is actually Adam Besso of Sterling Heights. 

Besso was arrested after pulling a shotgun on a motorcyclist in a trailer park in Burton, Michigan.

Besso approached the man saying the man's motorcycle was too loud. A struggle ensued and Besso's shotgun discharged. Thankfully, no one was injured.

MLive spoke with Tom Carter, the man who was approached by Besso. Carter told MLive he was surprised when the masked man confronted him in the trailer park:

"I couldn't hear him, so I started to approach him and that's when the gun came out," said Carter, 38, about the incident with Bee Sting.
"As soon as I saw the gun I was thinking I didn't want my kids to get shot."

The use of a gun has not only offended law enforcement, it offended another real-life superhero.

The White House hosted the LGBT Conference on Housing and Homelessness today in Detroit. It explored various issues lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face when it comes to finding housing or dealing with homelessness. This was one of four such conferences the White House is hosting around the country.


The Kalamazoo County Commission Tuesday will discuss taxing home owners to help others avoid homelessness.

A coalition of groups wants the commission to agree to let voters decide later this year on a proposal to add a one-tenth mil increase on their property tax bills.    The  added property tax would raise about $800 thousand  over four years.

The money would fund programs to prevent evictions, as well as provide vouchers for short-term and long-term housing.

Groundcover News

If you walk around downtown Ann Arbor you may have spotted people selling something called Groundcover News. The paper is what’s known as a street newspaper. That means homeless people sell the paper for $1 and they make a profit on every issue they sell. 

Groundcover News has articles about all kinds of topics written by the staff and other volunteers. But a growing number of the articles are being written by homeless people.

Camp Take Notice is a tent community of homeless people living in Ann Arbor.

Freezing temperatures will force many of its residents to find new places to live. But more than a dozen will stay through the winter.

Michigan Radio’s Mercedes Mejia and Meg Cramer visited the camp just before the first snow fall.

You can check out what the camp looks like here:

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 A federal judge’s ruling is opening the doors of Michigan’s homeless shelters to registered sex offenders.  

 Two years ago, a 51 year old homeless man was found frozen to death in Grand Rapids.  He was turned away by a   local homeless shelter because the man was a registered sex offender.   The shelter was less than a thousand feet from a school, which would have been a violation of a Michigan law barring sex offenders from living that close to a school.   

Flickr/Elvert Barnes

A newspaper says there were more than 31,000 homeless students in Michigan schools last year, an increase of more than 300 percent since 2007. Experts tell the Detroit Free Press that the reason appears to be home foreclosures across the state. In the past, schools typically heard different reasons, such as fire or domestic abuse.

Kids with no permanent address are living with relatives or friends or at shelters and motels. Nicole Larabee and her 14-year-old son have bounced from house to house in Livonia, including one with fleas. She had a $12-an-hour job but quit in 2010 for another job that fell through.

Larabee and 14-year-old son Matt are living in a friend's basement. Matt says it's hard to relax "unless you have your own place."

Campaign to End Homelessness website

The state is half-way through a ten year project called Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness. The project focuses on “housing first” or “rapid re-housing.” (That means reducing the amount of time people spend in shelters and trying to quickly find them permanent housing.)

Last year the state helped 40,000 people find stable housing.

Janet Irrer is the state’s homeless programs manager. She says housing first is a more humane way to help people make changes in their lives.

“You can’t deal with life in a shelter,” she says. “You can’t reach self-sufficiency there.”

The state is required to focus on housing first programs in order to get federal funding. Irrer says housing first programs are less expensive to run and help the state save money.

Ozone House website

The holidays often highlight family and special meals. But those can be delicate issues for some people, including homeless kids.  Pam Cornell-Allen is Associate Director of Ozone House, a non-profit that helps homeless youth in Washtenaw County. She says the holidays focus on a sense of family, and that can be a tender subject for homeless kids.

A housing complex for homeless veterans officially opened its doors in Detroit on Veterans Day.

It will serve as a transitional housing program where veterans can stay for up to two years. It can house as many as 60 people at a time.

Sharon Dade is the director of social services for Volunteers of America, the non-profit group that owns and operates the Detroit shelter.

She says they’ll work with the Veteran’s Administration to serve every qualified person—whether they’ve just returned from conflict, or have struggled for years.

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

Food Gatherers, a Southeast Michigan food bank, offers a job training program for youth ages 17 to 24.

Some participants are currently managing a mental illness, others have children or are primary caregivers for younger siblings—all are at risk for homelessness.

Christina Shockley, host of Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition, speaks with Mary Schlitt, director of development for Food Gatherers.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s rising poverty rate took on a human face in Lansing today as a few hundred people waited outside in the morning cold for a special event to help the capital city’s homeless.   Dozens of social service agencies took part in the event on Lansing’s south side.  

Patricia Wheeler is with the Greater Lansing Homeless Resolution Network.   She says more and more Michiganders are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.   Wheeler says this event is intended to lend them a hand.  

Michigan’s homeless shelters may be the next step for people losing their state welfare benefits next month.    And that worries an advocate for Michigan’s homeless.   More than 12 thousand families will be kicked out of Michigan’s welfare programs when the new 48 month limit on state cash assistance benefits takes effect October 1st. 

Eric Hufnagel expects most will be sustained by family and local charities.   But the executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness fears some will turn to local homeless shelters.  Hufnagel says local shelters are preparing for an influx of new clients, but decreasing government aid for shelters means it will be difficult.  

“We may not have the services that we need for some of those folks who are limited and no longer are receiving cash assistance.”   

Hufnagel expects only a small number of people losing their welfare benefits will turn to shelters initially.   But he says that tide will rise as religious groups and other charities find they cannot meet the need.

user anonymonous / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is giving $1.59 million for programs helping homeless Michigan veterans and their families.

Department Secretary Eric Shinseki said Tuesday that two Michigan nonprofit agencies will help about 545 homeless veteran families.

The program is called Supportive Services for Veteran Families, and the nationwide initiative is awarding about $60 million to 85 agencies in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

The government is giving $999,559 to Southwest Counseling Solutions in Detroit and $590,928 to the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in Wyandotte.

Under the program, the agencies will be able to provide a range of services to eligible very low-income veterans and their families. That can include some financial aid for rent, utilities, deposits and moving costs.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A Michigan Supreme Court says homeless sex offenders must report their home address to the state even though they don’t actually have homes.  Paroled sex offenders are legally required to provide their home address to the state sex offender registry. But what if they’re homeless?   

Randall Lee Dowdy is a convicted rapist.  He was paroled in 2002. But he was arrested again a few years later after he gave the address of a Lansing non-profit as his ‘home address’. Dowdy was homeless at the time.  

Lower courts ruled Dowdy couldn’t be charged with violating the law since he didn’t have a home address to report. 

But the Michigan Supreme Court says homelessness is no excuse. In a 4 to 3 decision, the high court ruled the lower courts had not taken the ‘intent’ of the law into account, adding homelessness doesn’t prevent sex offenders from complying with the law requiring them to report their ‘home’ address to the state.

The dissenting justices describe the majority’s opinion as defying ‘common sense.’

The Connection Youth Services has a new home in downtown in Howell. The program helps homeless and run-away youth. After years of fundraising they were able to buy a historic building that now serves as a drop-in center, and a home-base for its transitional-living program.

Lona Lanning is 19 years old. She’s working on meeting the requirements to get into the transitional-living program. Those requirements include volunteering 30 hours a week at The Connection and taking a life-skills class and working with counselors.

Would-be writers can take part in a workshop this weekend. Groundcover News is hosting the event Saturday, March 26 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Groundcover is a monthly paper in Washtenaw County that focuses on poverty and homelessness and many of its writers are struggling with those issues.

The workshop is geared toward people who have written for the paper, but anyone can attend.

Freelance writer Vickie Elmer is teaching the class. She says the idea is to have more voices, telling more compelling stories.

The workshop happens at the First Baptist Church in Ann Arbor. Cost is $20, but admission is free if participants promise to write two future articles for the paper.

The city of Flint is racing to complete dozens of home demolitions by the end of the month. City crews are racing the clock and the weather to meet a deadline tied to a federal grant.

John Evans watched Wednesday as a piece of heavy equipment tears into a vacant home on Flint’s north side.  Pulling down its brick chimney.  The bricks splintering wood as they fall.  It’s a welcome sight to John Evans.  He lives next door.  Evans says the vacant home has become a magnet to Flint’s homeless, who often set fires inside to stay warm.

Shared Sacrifice?

Mar 7, 2011

If you want to see why this recession was different from others in recent history, spend a little time over at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.

They’ve been seeing and feeding people they’ve never seen before, people who never imagined they’d need help.

The other day, I went to see Dr. Chad Audi, the mission’s President and CEO. Not only is their caseload flooded, he said, “more and more we are seeing the working homeless.”

These are people who have jobs, but still have no place to live. The Rescue Mission does what it can to get them into housing, but the need is far greater than it used to be -- and for many, the ability to give is less.

Incidentally, there are some who think of the mission as just a soup kitchen, possibly because of their mass appeals for help with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for the homeless. A soup kitchen was pretty much what it the mission was when it was founded a century ago. Founder David Stucky kept people alive with food from his own pantry during the worst of the Great Depression.

James Marvin Phelps / Flickr

Each Monday, our Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley speaks with a Michigan resident about a project or program that is working to improve life in Michigan. The interviews are part of our year-long series, What’s Working.

Today, Christina sits down with Beverley Ebersold, the Senior Program Manager at the Michigan Office for the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The federal department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week its granting $56 million dollars to Michigan to prevent homelessness. The money funds 269 separate programs all over the state.

screen grab of YouTube video

Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III says he filmed Ted Williams on a whim.

"We run into these guys at the exit ramps and we pretty much ignore them," said Chenoweth, who was en route with his wife to the grocery store when he first saw Williams. "This guy was using his talent."

Ted Williams was standing on a street corner near a highway exit ramp in Columbus, Ohio holding a sign that said "I have a God-given gift of voice. I am an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please any help will be greatfully (sic) appreciated..."

And when you hear his voice, it's uncanny. It sounds as if you've just stepped into a commercial radio or television broadcast. It almost sounds fake. Listen for yourself:

Homeless Teens at The Connection in Howell
The Connection

School districts reported 23,000 homeless kids in grades K-12, for last year’s school year.   But keep in mind, those were only the kids who actually showed up to school and who identified as homeless.

Lot’s of young people don’t want to admit they're homeless to an adult, or they don’t consider themselves homeless if they sleep on a friend’s couch for months at a time.

Volunteers serve Thanksgiving at DeVos Place
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

More than 600 volunteers served people in need a hot Thanksgiving meal today in Grand Rapids. Thousands of homeless, elderly, sick and downtrodden came for the feast.

Knight, Tom
Gerry Leslie / Homeless Management Information Systems

In 2008, the state estimates there were a little more than 86,000 people without a home. Half of them were families.