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December 01, 2011 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Orderly an
honielike,
Camp Take
4bfke in An n
"?bor helps
e homeless.

Kate Miller

Special to the Jewish News

Ann Arbor

F

our months ago, Jackie's son
dropped her off at an Ann Arbor
homeless shelter. With no beds
available, she was given a bus token and a
map to a nearby tent community. Scared
and alone, Jackie hesitantly approached
some campers.
"They took me in," she recalled. "They
gave me a tent, tarp and sleeping bag and
helped me set up for the night. They made
me feel OK. I haven't been scared since."
Jackie, 58, had arrived at Camp Take
Notice, a grassroots community of home-
less people currently residing in Ann
Arbor. Located in the woods next to 1-94
near Wagner Road, this collaborative
community offers a safe, substance-
free home when traditional shelters are
stressed beyond capacity. In the past,
the Delonis Shelter, Ann Arbor Police
Department and Washtenaw County's
Project Outreach Team (PORT) have all
referred homeless people to the camp as
a refuge of last resort.
The Michigan Itinerant Shelter
System: Interdependent Out of Necessity
(MISSION) is the nonprofit that partners
with Camp Take Notice. Created nearly
three years ago, MISSION provides a
platform for professionals and volunteers
to access homeless people. Instead of tak-
ing a mission trip to Africa, community
members can help people just as in need
in their own backyard.
As the name implies, this organization
was born out of the necessity for inter-
dependence. Brian Nord, president of the

8

December 1 2011

MISSION board, says that "... every soci-
ety needs a place and a tight-knit com-
munity where some of its citizens can go
to start over, to develop a support group,
to tell their story and to listen. Every
society needs a place, a 'hot springs' for
the soul to rejuvenate and re-invigorate a
connection to oneself and to the society"
While Camp Take Notice offers a fruit-
ful environment for the homeless, it lacks
the means to obtain basic supplies and to
take advantage of available resources. To
ameliorate this issue, the MISSION board
reaches out to individuals and faith-
based organizations for humanitarian
aid donations, as well as to government
agencies, law enforcement, the press and
others to advocate for Camp Take Notice
and the homeless. In the spirit of Tikkun
Olam, the generosity garnered from this
outreach has helped to provide campers
with propane to keep warm in the winter
and water for those hot summer days.

Life At Camp Take Notice
The tent community has an established
order, based on a self-governing process.
Upon arrival, a camper receives a sleep-
ing bag and tent and is welcomed with
open arms. Campers and visitors convene
every Sunday at 6 p.m. for a community
dinner brought by rotating volunteer
groups. All are warmly welcomed to
attend; it is a great opportunity to meet
individual campers, tour the camp and
gain a better appreciation of what Camp
Take Notice is all about. (Interested par-
ties should email Peggy Lynch at marga-
retannlynch@gmail.com beforehand).
Dinner is followed by a 7 p.m. com-
munity meeting, during which campers
raise, discuss and vote on community

issues. Often visitors are refreshingly sur-
prised that a group of homeless people
does such an outstanding job of staying
organized and respectfully observing the
rules of discussion.
This structure provides campers with
the opportunity to take control over their
living conditions, form lateral friendships
and help others instead of always being
dependent on help. Through the mutual
support within the camp community,
campers begin to realize that they can
make a difference — for others and in
their own lives. They regain confidence
and are ultimately enabled to look for-
ward to the next step.
"We want to help people hear
MISSION Secretary Brian Durrance
explains. "Self-governing triggers this
healing. Engaging in the process of build-
ing a tent on the first night is a very
therapeutic process for people who feel
disengaged and alienated ... I see people
think about their lives and where they
want to be. I see them go back to school,
connect with family members and build
those bridges that were lost. They develop
a sense of ownership. And with owner-
ship comes pride. And with pride comes
re-engagement."
This process has had a particularly
profound impact on Tate Williams, a
camper of four years. Tate has chosen to
remain at Camp Take Notice to help oth-
ers the way that he was helped.
"At Camp Take Notice, I have been able
to utilize my military survival training as
well as my leadership skills to guide oth-
ers in their growth:' he says. "The great-
est joy I feel is watching a person leave
the camp on solid ground, able to main-
tain a 'normal life' and not return."

Those who live in camp find ways to
adapt.

Mutual Respect
In addition to the strong community cre-
ated within camp, MISSION helps foster
relationships between the homeless and
"homefur Campers and volunteers come
together in solidarity to accomplish com-
mon goals such as raising awareness of
homelessness, fundraising for supplies and
maintaining the infrastructure of the camp.
This unique environment promotes a
mutual respect between these two com-
munities. With this new perspective, vol-
unteers often find that their stereotypes
are quickly redefined. A homeless person
is no longer someone on the corner asking
for money, but is instead Jackie, a mother
of three, grandmother of five and a gradu-

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