The Ann Arbor Chronicle » homeless it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Main & Liberty Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:36:28 +0000 Mary Morgan Abandoned cardboard sign on the sidewalk, apparently left by someone who needed money to travel to Texas. [photo]

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Liberty & Division Sat, 21 Dec 2013 01:36:09 +0000 HD Remaining contingent from regular Friday “Pizza in the Park” food distribution to the homeless report that a candlelight vigil held for “Shorty,” who died out in the elements last year, was well attended. Tomorrow, Dec. 21, is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.

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County Counts on Census 2010 Fri, 05 Mar 2010 11:39:57 +0000 Mary Morgan Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (March 3, 2010): A light agenda, coupled with virtually no discussion on any of the items under consideration, resulted in a brief meeting for county commissioners on Wednesday.

Census 2010 T-shirt

This T-shirt was among several promotional items given to commissioners on Wednesday by local representatives of the 2010 Census.

Agenda items that were discussed in more detail at last week’s administrative briefing – including health screenings for refugees, funding for services to low-income families, and a bond refunding for Sylvan Township – were approved with no comment on Wednesday.

Also during the meeting, commissioners got an update on Census 2010 efforts from two representatives who are helping oversee the local count. Commissioner Conan Smith issued a statement of disclosure related to a potential conflict of interest, an advocate for the homeless urged the county to support a rotating outdoor shelter, and commissioners went into executive session to discuss a lawsuit settlement – possibly related to a recent Supreme Court action in the legal battle with the townships of Augusta, Salem and Ypsilanti.

And ending several months of speculation, board chair Rolland Sizemore Jr. told The Chronicle that he plans to run for re-election as a commissioner – not as a candidate for state representative.

Census 2010

Toine Murphy and Tarik Green, two partnership specialists from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Detroit office, came to Wednesday’s meeting and gave a brief update on the upcoming count, which begins in less than a month. April 1 is “Census Day” – data collected should reflect the status of each household on that day. Murphy and Green are responsible for the count in this area, including a focus on students at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

Murphy said Census 2010 will have only 10 questions – residents will get a mailing, then “ground troops” will be sent out to canvass the area as well, with the goal of getting as high a response rate as possible. He said there’s been an unprecedented awareness campaign to encourage citizens to respond. They’ll be setting up “Be Counted” centers to help count transient people, and will be working to provide help for people who are disabled, Murphy said.

Andrew Cluley, Toine Murphy, Tarik Green

Andrew Cluley of WEMU interviews Toine Murphy, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau. To the right is Tarik Green, another partnership specialist.

The count is important to communities for several reasons, Murphy said. For one, the results will determine Congressional representation. Resources, such as federal grants, are also allocated based on census data.

The U.S. Census is still hiring in this area, Murphy said. Anyone interested in applying should call the jobs hotline at 866-861-2010.

Commissioner Conan Smith said he worked as a census-taker in 1990, describing it as a “great job.”

Rolland Sizemore Jr., chair of the board, said he’d asked that Murphy and Green to give a presentation to the board so that everyone would be better informed about the process. He reiterated Murphy’s point about resource allocation, noting that if Washtenaw County residents aren’t counted accurately, “that is money we won’t get.”

Murphy and Green later handed out canvas bags to commissioners with census promotional items, including T-shirts, cups and other trinkets.

Smith Addresses Potential Conflict of Interest

Later this month, the board will be voting on an agreement with the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, a Ferndale-based nonprofit led by commissioner Conan Smith. The alliance will be managing the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office, which Washtenaw County is being asked to join. When this possibility arose late last year, some commissioners raised concerns over a potential conflict of interest for Smith. [See Chronicle coverage from a Nov. 24, 2009 administrative briefing and Dec. 2, 2009 county board meeting.]

To address that issue, Smith read a statement into the record at Wednesday’s board meeting. Here is his statement in its entirety:

Colleagues and Members of the Public: In two weeks, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners will vote on authorizing the administrator to sign a participation agreement with the Michigan Suburbs Alliance to secure membership in and support from the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office. The County’s financial contribution for this important membership and support is $76,690. To avoid the appearance of any impropriety, I intend to abstain from that vote.

I am the Executive Director of the Suburbs Alliance, a Michigan not-for-profit corporation, and as such the signatory authority on behalf of the organization for this agreement. While I will be the named party to this agreement, I have no pecuniary interest in it and receive no direct or indirect benefit from it.

Contracts of public servants with public entities are governed by P.A. 317 of 1968, which provides, in part, a procedure for a public servant to disclose any pecuniary interest he/she might have resulting from a contract between the entity that the public servant works for and the public body upon which the public servant serves. In the present case, I will not direct or indirectly benefit from the County’s membership in the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office; however, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and to foster full public disclosure on this matter, I am following the procedure outlined by P.A. 317 of 1968. To that extent, the following should be noted:

  • I am making this disclosure more than seven days before the issue is brought before the board for a vote;
  • I intend to abstain from the vote on this issue; and
  • I hope for a 2/3 majority of the board, as required by P.A. 317, to approve the agreement.

I am in full support of this process and anticipate our moving forward gracefully in the full view of the public.

Smith asked commissioners if they had any questions for him. There were none. [.pdf file of P.A. 317 of 1968: "Contracts of Public Services with Public Entities"]

What Got Approved?

Several items had been discussed at last week’s administrative briefing, and were approved by commissioners on Wednesday. They include:

  • A health screening program for 50-100 refugees who settle in Washtenaw County each year. The screenings will be funded by the state Department of Community Health.
  • Creation of a full-time management analyst position in the Office of Community Development, paid for by a federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant. The position will assist the office’s housing manager with land bank activities and will work with local nonprofit housing developers.
  • Acceptance of a $597,568 federal grant for services to low-income families, whose income is at or below 125% of the local poverty level. The grant requires $239,577 in county matching funds and will be administered by the Employment Training and Community Services (ETCS) department.
  • Acceptance of a $97,781 federal grant, also administrated through ETCS, for job training and employment services for about 90 people receiving food aid.
  • Acceptance of a $1.553 million federal job training grant, plus $293,769 in state funds, for welfare recipients and at-risk workers. The services will be provided through ETCS.
  • Authorization to allow the county treasurer to borrow up to $50 million against the amount of delinquent property taxes in all 80 taxing jurisdictions throughout the county. After March 1, these jurisdictions turn their delinquent taxes over to the county, and are reimbursed for that amount. The county treasurer then assumes responsibility for collecting these delinquent taxes.
  • Approval of a $10.4 million bond refunding for Sylvan Township, allowing the township to restructure the debt it had incurred for building its water and wastewater systems.

Commissioners did not discuss these items on Wednesday. They had raised issues related to some of these topics at their Feb. 24 administrative briefing, which previews the agenda for the regular board meeting. [See Chronicle coverage: "County Board Agenda: Health, Finance Issues"]

Public Commentary

Brian Nord spoke on behalf of Camp Take Notice and MISSION (Michigan Itinerant Shelter System: Interdependent Out of Necessity). He said the homeless camp, which is set up in a patch of land near an I-94 cloverleaf, has been threatened with eviction by the state police and the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT). Nord called the action callous and potentially life-threatening. Though there are open beds in the county’s rotating shelter system, Nord said that for a variety of reasons, that isn’t an option for many Camp Take Notice residents. [The rotating shelter, which operates during the winter month, is a partnership between the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County and 15 local congregations. This year, the number of beds in the rotating shelter system was increased from 25 to 50 through emergency funding by the city of Ann Arbor and the county.]

If Camp Take Notice is disbanded, Nord said its residents will seek outdoor shelter elsewhere, in a place likely less accessible to those offering supportive services. The camp is a refuge, he said, something that many residents don’t find in traditional shelters.

Nord pointed out that the county is about halfway toward meeting its bricks-and mortar goal of having 500 beds for the homeless, as specified in the 2004 Blueprint to End Homelessness. He also noted that they’re six years into the 10-year plan. Allowing outdoor rotating shelters, with supportive services, may be a way of reaching that goal until the county emerges from its economic downturn.

Responding to Nord’s comments, commissioner Kristin Judge praised the efforts of MISSION, saying she’d met with them and found them to be a heartfelt group who really cared about the condition of the homeless. She asked for the administration to give the board an update on the status of the Blueprint to End Homelessness at some future meeting.

Lawsuit Settlement: Executive Session

The board went into executive session at the end of Wednesday’s meeting, citing the need to discuss a lawsuit settlement. Though the case was unspecified, an attorney for Dykema Gossett attended the meeting – that law firm has been representing the county in a legal dispute with the townships of Augusta, Salem and Ypsilanti. The townships sued the county in 2006 over the cost of sheriff deputy patrols.

Last week, the state Supreme Court refused to reconsider a motion made by the townships to hear the case. [See Chronicle coverage: "Townships Lose Again in Deputy Patrol Case"] The county now plans to ask for a judgment to cover costs of providing patrols to the townships without a contract for most of 2006 – potentially around $2 million.

After returning from their closed session, the board took no action and immediately adjourned.

Present: Leah Gunn, Jeff Irwin, Kristin Judge, Mark Ouimet, Ronnie Peterson, Jessica Ping, Wes Prater, Ken Schwartz, Rolland Sizemore Jr., Conan Smith

Absent: Barbara Levin Bergman

Next board meeting: The next regular meeting is Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 220 N. Main St. The Ways & Means Committee meets first, followed immediately by the regular board meeting. [confirm date] (Though the agenda states that the regular board meeting begins at 6:45 p.m., it usually starts much later – times vary depending on what’s on the agenda.) Public comment sessions are held at the beginning and end of each meeting.

Bob Guenzel, Verna McDaniel

County administrator Bob Guenzel confers with Verna McDaniel, deputy administrator, during the March 3 board of commissioners meeting. McDaniel is in line to replace Guenzel in mid-May as the new county administrator.

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Bill Bynum’s BreakFest Preview at Old Town Mon, 18 Jan 2010 22:41:22 +0000 Dave Askins On Sunday, Jim and Connie Johnston drove from Hanover, just south of Jackson, Mich., to Ann Arbor.

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Bill Bynum & Co. Sunday night at the Old Town Tavern. Left to right: Mary Seelhorst on fiddle, Chuck Anderson on bass, Dave Keeney on guitar, Bill Bynum on guitar and vocals. (Photos by the writer.)

They’d come specifically to hear Bill Bynum & Co. play the Old Town Tavern – a neighborhood bar offering free live music every Sunday night. Yes, the Johnstons are fans – they buy a CD every time they see Bill play, says Jim, so they’ll have one to give away to another friend as an introduction to Bynum’s songs.

What kind of songs are those? Bynum announced his Old Town set by saying, “Howdy, folks, we’re here to play some hillbilly music!” And that’s what they did for two 45-minute sets, with a break in between.

The Chronicle didn’t have to drive nearly an hour to get to the Old Town like the Johnstons did – the Old Town is right down the street from us.

But we were there to see Bynum, too, because we wanted to check out one of the acts playing BreakFest 2010 at The Ark on Feb. 26. That’s when Bynum will be joined by Bonnie Rideout, Rev. Robert Jones, Sr. and Duck Baker in a benefit concert at The Ark for The Breakfast at St. Andrew’s, a nonprofit that provides a hot breakfast every day of the year to anyone who shows up at the doorstep of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on North Division.

Why Not Golf?

Jim Cain, who’s producing the BreakFest fundraiser, told The Chronicle that the idea of organizing a concert as a fundraiser was his attempt “to save Ann Arbor from yet another charity golf outing.”

Cain serves as a member of the board of The Breakfast at St. Andrew’s and works as a volunteer at the breakfast itself – washing dishes. The work of organizing the fundraiser, Cain said, didn’t really seem like work. Recruiting the artists was a combination of cold calling and connections – helped by Cain’s own musical background.

Cain played bass in the Saline High School orchestra with fiddler Bonnie Rideout and took piano lessons from her mom. But when he first tried to contact her, she was in Scotland recording a CD and couldn’t be reached. After finally tracking her down, she was instantly on board.

Cain didn’t have a previous connection to fingerstyle guitarist Duck Baker, so he cold-emailed him asking him to play the benefit. In his email, Cain included the fact that he was learning some Irish fiddle tunes arranged for fingerstyle guitar – using teaching materials created by Baker. Baker said yes, and Cain has helped arrange some shows in Kalamazoo and Lansing to make the trip from New York England worth Baker’s while.

But the first artist to agree to perform for BreakFest was Bynum – on a handshake deal. How did Cain get to know Bynum? Start with Bynum & Co.’s fiddle player, Mary Seelhorst. Her husband is an editor at Car and Driver magazine, which is based in Ann Arbor, and she herself is a photographer who on occasion shoots automobiles. Cain met them at the Rolling Sculpture Car Show in downtown Ann Arbor and got to know the band that way.

The Funding Challenge

Part of the impetus behind the need to ramp up fundraising efforts for The Breakfast at St. Andrew’s program was the end of support from the city of Ann Arbor. When human services allocations were made this current year, a new evaluation metric was implemented, along with a requirement that audited financial statements be provided.

The Breakfast was not able to provide audited statements for this year’s application cycle, so was not allocated any funding. As the city of Ann Arbor faces a challenging budget year – with all programs on the table – it’s not clear if any human services programs will receive funding in the coming year.

All of the $30 ticket price for the show at The Ark goes directly to support The Breakfast. To make a donation directly, call 734-663-0518  or make an online donation to the St. Andrew’s breakfast program.

Bynum at the Old Town: Photos

Meanwhile, here are some photos to document the rest of the evening at the Old Town Tavern.

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

In the first booth were Jim and Connie Johnston, who'd driven from near Jackson, Mich. to hear Bill Bynum & Co. play Ann Arbor's Old Town Tavern.

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Bill Bynum

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Dave Keeney

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Chuck Anderson (on bass) and Dave Keeney

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Bill Bynum

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

The pitcher is passed.

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Laws of Physics: Homeless Camp Moves Wed, 02 Sep 2009 13:01:56 +0000 Dave Askins Apple tree near the park and ride lot at I-94 and Ann Arbor-Saline

An apple tree near the park-and-ride lot at I-94 and Ann Arbor-Saline Road. (Photo by the writer.)

Every school child learns that Newton “discovered” gravity when an apple fell out of a tree and bonked him on the head.

Near the park-and-ride lot at I-94 and Ann Arbor-Saline Road stands an apple tree. Most, but not all, of the tree’s fruit this season has already succumbed to Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation.

About 50 yards northwest of that apple tree is the new – and likely very temporary – location of “Camp Take Notice” – a tent camp where maybe a dozen homeless people spent the first night in September. Standing under the apple tree Tuesday afternoon, The Chronicle spoke by phone to Ellen Schulmeister, executive director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County.

Schulmeister characterized the “bottom line” for the homeless: “It’s simple physics,” she said. “People have to be some place, and if people don’t have a place to be, they will find a place to be.”

If it’s a matter of physics, then it’s perhaps perfectly natural that the guy who drove the U-Haul truck to move the camp from its previous location – behind Toys R Us at Arborland – is a University of Michigan doctoral student in physics, Brian Nord.

This is a story that does not yet have an end, nor will it likely ever have one. But we can write down the part we know so far, which began with a Chronicle visit to the camp behind Arborland earlier this summer, and goes through a visit from a Michigan State Trooper to the new camp location early Tuesday evening.

sign at homeless camp

At the entrance to "Camp Take Notice" in July 2009 (Photo by the writer.)

Background: What’s the Goal of the Camp?

Moving “Camp Take Notice” from behind the Toys R Us at Arborland was always a part of the plan for residents of the tent community, but not on Tuesday’s more-or-less involuntary schedule. The tent community is a self-governed group of campers who say they are well on their way to achieving 501(c)3 nonprofit status for their organization: MISSION (Michigan Itinerant Shelter System Interdependent Out of Necessity).

Tuesday afternoon, Robin Rich, board member of MISSION, told The Chronicle that the final paperwork for the nonprofit was expected to be approved in the next week or two.

The plan had been to move the tent community off the private property behind Arborland – where the property owner had given them no explicit permission to camp – to church properties where congregations grant them permission to camp for a specified time period. The idea is to secure arrangements with multiple churches, and to rotate the camp location after a period of months.

The effort to secure those commitments from area churches has begun. Part of that effort consists of a media packet that’s been distributed to churches. And Tuesday morning, camp resident Jesse A. told The Chronicle that he’d attended a couple of the in-person contacts made by the campers with area pastors. These efforts have not yet succeeded.

caleb with officer

Caleb Poirier talks with an Ann Arbor police officer outside the campsite behind Arborland on Tuesday morning. (Photo by the writer.)

The idea of temporary homeless shelters is not novel. It’s been used in Seattle, for example, where camper Caleb Poirier lived for a while. So he’s modeling the effort here in Ann Arbor on what he experienced in Washington.

The premise behind the approach is that not every homeless person fits the model assumed by bricks-and-mortar institutions such as the Delonis Center.

Camp Council: “It’s 10 weeks until cold!”

Back in July, during Art Fairs week, The Chronicle attended one of the weekly camp council meetings held Thursdays at 7 p.m. at the campsite. They’re open to the public, just like the weekly board meetings held Mondays at 7 p.m. at the Malletts Creek branch of the Ann Arbor District Library.

When The Chronicle visited, there were 17 tents at the site. With campers sitting in a rough circle in office chairs – which were not intended to roll across the fresh straw that had been spread throughout the site – Poirier called the meeting to order: “Anybody want to chair the meeting?” Hunter R. volunteered to chair. “Who’d like to keep time?” Nord, the physicist, said he’d be the time keeper. “Minutes?” None of the dozen campers expressed a willingness to do that task. After a pause, Nord offered that he’d keep minutes as best he could in addition to keeping track of time.

tents at homeless camp

"Camp Take Notice" in July 2009. (Photo by the writer.)

Hunter then led off chairing the meeting. The first order of business was to set the agenda. It boiled down to four basic points:

  1. morale check
  2. supply check
  3. progress on flyer and media packet
  4. strategize on reaching out to churches

It was the last two points that generated the most discussion. George Lucero – who became interested in the camp when an acquaintance of his became homeless and started staying there – gave an update on his work on the media packet and the cover letter to the churches. It was agreed that each letter should be customized based on the congregation. The consensus was that it was important for campers themselves to be a part of the delegations that made contact with the churches.

There was not a complete consensus on an appropriate sense of urgency. Hunter wanted to see contacts being made as soon as the following week. “It’s 10 weeks until cold!” he warned. Others felt that congregations needed some time to decompress after Art Fairs. Plus, many people were out of town, and congregations were unlikely to make a firm decision.

Johnny A. suggested that the passive versus a more aggressive approach to contacting churches reminded him of the story of two bulls on the hill. Asked by Poirier what that story was, Johnny declined: “There’s women around, I can’t tell it.”

Homeless Camp Ann Arbor Arborlan

Brian Nord shakes hands with AAPD officers Tuesday morning at the campsite behind Arborland. (Photo by the writer.)

What Led to the Camp’s Move

Overnight low temperatures in the Ann Arbor area over the last few days have dipped into the 30s. So the arrival of the cold, which Hunter had warned of, came a few weeks earlier than expected.

But the request from authorities to leave the property had not been expected.

Why wouldn’t they have eventually expected to be forced off the land?

The parcel, which is zoned residential, measures a little less than 50 acres and is owned by Peters Building Co. in Saline. The president of Peters Building is Jim Haeussler.

The campers contend that they’d communicated with Haeussler, and they maintain that while he had not given them permission to live there, he’d indicated he wasn’t planning to initiate legal remedies to force them off the land, either.

Ann Arbor Police Department officers at the site Tuesday morning indicated to campers that they’d spoken with the property owner that morning, and said that he had not given the campers permission to stay there.

AAPD officers also expressed concern about the fire hazard from all the straw that was spread through the campsite, plus the piles of cleared brush. They’d seen evidence of open burning at the site when they’d inspected it the previous evening. They’d been called to the site in response to a complaint of a disturbance.

Camp residents told The Chronicle there’d been three visits by AAPD officers to the site on Monday, the previous day.

From statements by the officers and camp residents, the complaints of disturbances led AAPD to contact both the city attorney and the property owner, which ultimately led to the request on Monday evening to leave the property.

Ellen Schulmeister, executive director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, said that on Monday evening the Delonis Center staff had offered to shelter anyone from the camp who was sober. A few of the campers took the center up on their offer.

Schulmeister also explained that the center houses around 150 people each year – that’s the number of people they are able to transition from their 50-bed shelter facility at 312 W. Huron St. to more stable permanent housing. That’s roughly 10% of the total 1,500 homeless population that the center serves.

Officers on the scene behind Arborland on Tuesday morning stressed to campers that they could not simply squat on private land unless they had explicit permission from the property owner to do so.

A New Camp Location, But Probably Not For Long

The first truckload of camp building materials arrived at the new location – north of the park-and-ride lot on Ann Arbor-Saline Road at I-94 – around noon on Tuesday. By around 3 p.m. a complaint had already been called in, and Ann Arbor police as well as a Pittsfield Township officer had arrived on the scene.

Homeless Camp Ann Arbor park-and-ride

Caleb Poirier talks with an AAPD officer at the new campsite Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by the writer.)

Part of the reason the new camp was easy to spot was that in the last few weeks the area has been cleared of all brush and undergrowth by the Michigan Department of Transportation, which controls the land.

When The Chronicle arrived at the park-and-ride, Poirier introduced to us one of the AAPD officers as “a reasonable conversationalist.” From what we observed, conversation on both sides could be fairly characterized as polite, civil, yet firm. AAPD officers at the park-and-ride reiterated the same message that had been delivered in the morning: You can’t camp on land that isn’t yours.

Campers were advised that there were other avenues they should pursue – a request to city council, for example. Poirier, for his part, stressed that on issues like homelessness, real progress was rarely made by using only the prescribed avenues. He also outlined how the group’s strategy was to secure permission from churches to camp on their property.

Because the land where the tents had been set up is not owned by the city, the AAPD doesn’t have jurisdiction over it. So the Ann Arbor officers departed, leaving campers with the expectation that the county sheriff’s department would be arriving later. “Whoever comes out,” advised the officer, “just listen to what they have to say.”

state trooper inspects homeless camp

A Michigan State Police Trooper checks tents for occupants Tuesday evening. (Photo by the writer.)

It turns out that, because MDOT controls the land in question, it was a Michigan State Police trooper, not a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s deputy, who was tasked with official enforcement of the law. So a little before 7 p.m. a trooper pulled into the park-and-ride lot, and went down to the camp. The same polite, civil and firm conversation was repeated for the third time the same day.

This time, though, there was more than conversation. The trooper collected identifying information from everyone at the camp and radioed it in. He wasn’t arresting anyone that night, but they’d be checking back, he said, possibly as soon as the next day.

Who Are These People and What Are They Thinking?

A sampling of what “Camp Take Notice” residents think about the camp would include Johnny’s thoughts from mid-July: “There’s nothing but positivity around here.” And that sampling would need to include Stretch’s description of how he’d been through various treatment programs, and never could stay sober – but he’d been sober at the camp since November 2008, he said.

We also heard some stories of how homelessness affects your ability to get a job – two job offers since April could not be accepted because the offers coincided with losing a place to live close to the jobs.

Caleb Poirier, when asked by the Michigan State Police trooper if he was the group’s leader, resisted the label – decisions of the group are made democratically, he stressed. But there is no question that other campers look to him for leadership. At the July meeting, Hunter – who had been pushing more urgently than Poirier to convince churches sooner rather than later to grant permission to camp on their property – still said, “I’ve been on Caleb’s team since day one. I didn’t really care about homeless people, and I was a homeless person.”

Hunter was a homeless person, but he’s still involved with MISSION. Many of the members of MISSION’s board are not homeless, have never been homeless, and would probably not be mistaken for a homeless person – but that’s hard to say for sure.

Take Lily Au, for example. She was out at both the old and the new campsites on Tuesday. She told The Chronicle that she learned about “Camp Take Notice” when someone mentioned it to her when she was volunteering at a Friday pizza distribution at Liberty Plaza. It’s an event often sponsored by the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor. So she went out to visit the camp. There she met Caleb Poirier – for the second time. She’d run into him long before at an Arby’s. That day at Arby’s she had been there with her two kids and had been lugging a lot of bags. And maybe because of the bags, Au says, Poirier had sized her up as homeless.

In following this story, The Chronicle can attest that it’s not easy to tell who’s homeless and who’s not – who’s a camper and who’s helping out but doesn’t live in the camp.

[For useful insights on who the homeless are, read a Nov. 30, 2008 Chronicle column by Peri Stone-Palmquist: "We Must See the Homeless – And We Must Help"]

Homeless Camp Ann Arbor Arborlan

Caleb Poirier and an AAPD officer at the campsite behind Arborland Tuesday morning. (Photo by the writer.)

state trooper inspects homeless camp

Michigan State Police trooper at a park-and-ride campsite Tuesday evening. At right is Lily Au. (Photo by the writer.)

state trooper inspects homeless camp

Unloading the truck at the park-and-ride campsite. (Photo by the writer.)

U-Haul truck and homeless camp trooper inspects homeless camp

A U-Haul truck backs up to the park-and-ride campsite. (Photo by the writer.)


Rules of the camp. (Image links to higher resolution file)

fire extinguisher next to straw

"Camp Take Notice" in July 2009. (Photo by the writer.)

apples on ground at homeless camp

The view from under the apple tree at the park-and-ride, looking towards the new campsite location. (Photo by the writer.)

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