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October 11, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-11

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The Michign Daily- Friday, October 11, 1991 - Page 5

*We know the homeless are there...
so why don't we see them?

by Tami Pollak
Daily Staff Reporter


It is easy to feel sorry for the
It is easy to feel sorry for Sue
Watson, a homeless, pregnant wom-
an who can't get a job at Mc-
Donald's because she can't hide her
second-trimester stomach - "Who
wants to hire someone facing
maternity leave in a matter of
months?" she asks matter-of-factly.
Watson, 31, wants to keep her
baby, house or no house. "Two of
my kids are with my ex-husband, the
*ther is with its father," she said,
her eyes lighting up her tired, mid-
dle-aged face as she looks down at
her stomach. "I want this baby, I
want to have a house by the time it
It is easy to feel sorry for John
Putney, a 35-year-old man who has
been working temporary jobs most
of his life. Putney has been homeless
since May.
* "It's hard to find work. When
you look in the paper it's like a page
and a half goes to the registered
nurses, another page for various pro-
fessional business jobs, and when
you finally get to general employ-
ment, there's like three or four
columns," Putney said.
"I get by with food stamps, and I
donate plasma for $20 a week to buy
e basics - shampoo, deodorant,
aundry detergent. If you're inge-
nious enough you can get by, but like
yesterday, I blew $1.50 taking a bus
to a job interview at Weber's
restaurant." When Putney got to
Weber's, he found out the $1.50
would have been better spent on a
meal - the management was going
to give a fired employee one more
It is easy to feel sorry for Gary
Lamb, who will turn 40 in De-
cember. Lamb was living in a van,
scraping by on disability checks and
a taxi-driving job until a few days
ago, when a car ran a red light and
totaled his home, forcing him into a
shelter. "I don't like to sit on my
tush and collect welfare. When you
hold a job, you at least have some
sense of pride."
Lamb hasn't been homeless for
long. He left a home in Pontiac a
few months ago when his romance
with a woman named Kay Rogers
hit the rocks.
"I really care about her a super
amount ... I'm going to give it until
Christmas. If it doesn't happen then,
I will move on." Right now,
Lamb's dream is to move into a gov-
Mrnment-sbiie ar~t e.Ad
u1 fi i ±a lc
ernment-subsix apmnts Ander
wit mree sx , ot
are that it will be at least a year
before his turn comes around.
It is also easy not to feel sorry
for the homeless.

It is easy not to feel sorry for
William Burt, a man whose pant
pockets are lined with yellow court
appearance notices for open intoxi-
cant charges, stolen property
charges and unpaid child support no-
tices. Burt said he gave all his food
stamps to his daughter this month.
He said the shop-lifting charges are
false and racially motivated. He said
he had been drinking root beer out of
a paper cup when the police officers
stopped him.
But his denials are punctuated by
alcohol-tinged breath and his stories
discredited by the fact he has been
barred from the Ann Arbor Shelter

Association for verbal abuse.
When Burt walked into court
Tuesday, 11 University students
were lined up before the judge and
charged with open intoxicant and
related charges.
The judge told the students the
crime was a misdemeanor, but that
they had the option of paying a $100
fine to dismiss the charges outright.
All but one accepted the option.
When Burt was presented with
his charges, he was given no options
and the case was scheduled
for a trial.
It's not an issue of
dropping dimes versus
condemning comments
into the hands of street
people on campus. It's not
a question of whether the
homeless are working
people who have fallen
upon hard times, or are
downtrodden veterans
who choose to drown out
a harsh reality in a paper-
bag-wrapped beer bottle.
The matter of most N
importance to the Anng
Arbor homeless andu
homeless activists right
now, judging from a rally
at City Hall earlier this
week, is being recognized
by the city and the.
As the cold air begins
to nip at the faces of the
city's approximately
1,500 homeless, it no
longer matters whether
they are felt for or
faulted. They face a winter
without a local day shel-
ter, without state General
Assistance checks, and
without enough beds.
What seems important
now is that the city of
Ann Arbor, which to a Y
large extent is centered.
around the University
community, recognizes
the predicaments of its r
homeless population.
M E = a
"The University police
don't really bother us too
much unless someone like
George Bush is coming to
talk to the graduating -
class, or if it's the big Graffiti i
N sotre either be
Notre Dame-Michigan tracks h
game. Then it's like 'time
for all the homeless people to crawl
back into their holes - we're hav-
ing visitors,'"' John Putney said
while sitting on the "wall" in
front of the Natural Science
Putney arrived in Ann Arbor in
May after losing a series of tempo-
rary jobs and falling on hard times.
His first night in town, not know-
ing where the shelters were, he tried
to sleep on the Diag.
The small, pony-tailed man still
carries in his back pocket the card he
received that night from the
University Department of Safety
and Security (DPSS) after they
woke him up and asked him to leave.
The word "trespassing" is written
and circled in pencil on the front,
and it gives instructions to contact
Leo Heatley, director of DPSS.
"I haven't been bothered since
then. Usually, unless a group of
people come out here with 20
McDonald's bags, or if you have

open liquor and are screaming and
yelling, they will generally leave
you alone. If there's a big group of
us on the wall, we're obviously not
students, and security usually comes
and tells us to leave or enforces the
trespassing act," Putney said.
David Noel, who has been home-
less on and off for the past six years,
agreed with Putney that the Uni-
versity's sporadic enforcement of
trespassing laws stems from a need
to maintain a certain image.
"It's like a few years ago when
the Today show came here. The
University hired a team of students
to go around picking up trash off the
grounds the night before they ar-
rived," Noel said. "Homeless peo-

ple aren't good for the University's
Until Tuesday, Noel had been
driving a cab at night, and had spent
his days either volunteering time at
the Ann Arbor Tenant's Union or
trying to catch some sleep around
town. Even with the taxi income,
however, he has had trouble getting
together enough money for a secu-
rity deposit and first month's rent.
"Where do I go during the day?
It all depends. Without a day shel-

to start dealing with the problem
now," Noel said.
E U.
At 20-years-old, with a book bag
on his shoulder, black pants, a wool
overcoat and sneakers, Roy Cart-
wright looks like just another
"He doesn't get harassed like us
because he looks like a student," Sue
Watson said. "When I sit on the
wall over on the Diag with a bag of
food next to me, campus security
will come up and take my pop and
put their nose in it to smell for al-
cohol. I'm pregnant, I don't drink,"
Watson said, crinkling her nose.
"But if I looked like a student, like
Roy, they wouldn't bother me."
Cartwright has an easier time
hanging out on the Diag and making
friends with students "who would
probably turn their head the other
way if I looked stereotypically

as I'm concerned. He cuts off our
general aid and says we should be
working. Can we put him down as a
job reference?"
Cartwright was honorably dis-
charged from the Navy on Aug. 15,
1990."I was a warehouse manager
in the service. I was trusted to man-
age $1.5 million - I had two years
of education slammed into eight
weeks. And I apply for a job at
Republic Bank on Main, and they say
I'm not qualified."
So far the only job for which
Cartwright has qualified is a skin-
graft donor at the hospital. "I went
up and donated four pieces of skin
off my ass. We survive off of pop
bottles, going up to U of M hospi-
tal to donate skin, to be medical
guinea pigs."
One 19-year-old, who did not
want to be identified, often hangs
out with University students but
lives off the street. He in-
terviews daily for jobs,
hoping to save enough
money .to put himself
through school.
"People are people,
what does it matter if
they don't have homes?"
said first-year LSA stu-
dent Brian Ferla, one of
the teen-ager's friends.
Ferla said his suburban
upbringing did not bring
him into contact with the
homeless. But he wasn't
surprised when. he met
homeless people on the
Diag this summer.
"I just think a home-
less person is pretty much
someone who is out of
luck," Ferla said. He
added, however, that most
students don't see it that
"When my roommate
found out (that a friend of
ours is homeless), he said,
'Really? He's so nice for
being homeless.' I
couldn't believe it. That's
like saying, 'You're so
nice for being Black.'
That's not what it's all
about," Ferla said.
"It makes me so mad
when people say, 'Oh, we
< i j have to feed the starving
people in Africa.' We have
people on our own streets,
outside of our classrooms
".&>who are starving. Why
don't we help them?"
Tuesday afternoon, as
William Burt sat in dis-
trict court awaiting his
pre-trial for open-intoxi-
cant charges, he said if he
elters could have his ideal situa-
tad tion he would go to
"I would be a student.
I really would," Burt said, finger-
ing the holes he said the police tore
in his jacket when apprehending him
earlier in the year.
Doug, an Ann Arbor resident
who hangs out on the "wall" dur-
ing the day, said students walk by
and ignore the homeless.
He pointed to a student sitting
under a tree just 10 yards away on
the Diag. "See her, she sits their in
her leather jacket with nice make-up,
nice clothes. She walks by us like we
don't exist. They just don't care.
They have money to go to school so

they can get richer, and they just let
us get poorer."
But John Putney interrupted
him, "A lot of those kids are just a
paycheck away from being homeless
themselves ... These people have
talents, they just can't seem to make
a living off of them. We are nice de-
cent people, we just need a chance."

'U' thinks
One afternoon last September,
Larry Barnett walked into the
Fishbowl with his brown-bag
lunch. He bought a cup of coffee
out ofa vending machine and sat
down near
the windows
overlooking Stephen
the Angell
Hall comput-
ing center,
admiring its
what," you
say? "Stu-
dents do this
all the time."
But Larry
isn't a
student. He's homeless. And he
tells me that because he is
homeless, and looks the way he
does, police officers told him he
was trespassing that day in the
Fishbowl. They asked him to
He wasn't drunk; he wasn't
rowdy. All he was doing, he says,
was "taking a break." Taking a
break from the hard, unpleasant
streets he calls home. That
shouldn't be a crime.
I spent a good deal of time
with Larry and some other
homeless people this week - on
their turf, talking with them,
hanging out. From what they tell
me, Larry's uncomfortable
encounter with those who enforce
the laws around here is not
"Bernie," who asked me not to
use his real name, says he was
taken to the police station almost
two weeks after he used the
bathroom at the Graduate Library.
He says the Ann Arbor Police
approached him one day outside
St. Andrews Church, where he'd
eaten breakfast with the city's
other under-privileged citizens,
and told him he had trespassed on
University property when he went
to the Grad.
He says he used the bathroom
at the Grad because he might have
gotten a ticket for going outside;
they told him he was trespassing.
Numerous other homeless
people told me they've also been
booted from campus at various
sites including the Diag, random
streets on North Campus, and the
Union, to name a few. All said
they hadn't been bothering
This was a disturbing surprise
to me.
Sure, I knew the University
didn't have the greatest reputation
for welcoming homeless people
onto campus with open arms. I
even knew that in some cases,
homeless people had been thrown
off campus for being drunk and
But I didn't know public
safety officers were approaching
homeless people on campus who
weren't doing anything, and
telling them they were trespass-
So I called the University
Department of Public Safety and
Security to find out what the deal

I spoke with Lt. Vernon
Baisden, the department's
spokesperson. After assuring me
that I was "way off the mark" if I
thought homeless people were
being discriminated against by
public safety, Baisden explained,
the trespassing policy to me.
"If an individual is determined
by an officer to have no reason to
be on campus, they can be read
the trespass act," he said. I asked
him what would determine
whether someone had no reason
to be on campus, and he told me
that it was "up to the individual
officer." He also said officers can
respond to a trespasser after being
called, or after "observing" their
That , however, is a pretty
subjective way to enforce the law.
I really doubt that public
safety officers "observe" or get
called about students, parents or
alumni trespassing. Other citizens
lucky enough to have homes and
decent clothes probably aren't
very likely to be told they're
trespassing either.
As far as I can tell, the only
people who public safety officers
see as trespassers around here are
homeless people.
So, Larry doesn't come onto
campus to eat lunch anymore. In
fact, he hardly goes onto Univer-
sity grounds at all. He says he's
had it with being told he doesn't
belong, that he has "no reason" to
be on campus.
D..t Th.nnAA u onnther

s the decoration on the bedroom walls of the homeless who can't sleep in sh
cause of overcrowding, or because of shelter rules. The bridges by the railro
ave served as the roof over the heads of many Ann Arbor homeless.

ter, a lot of the homeless go to the
public library, but even that's
closed temporarily now ... I would
never go somewhere like the Union
to sleep, though, especially during
the day - it's like being in a fish-
bowl, and it's too noisy besides,"
Noel said.
And even though Noel has never
come into contact with the Univer-
sity police in a trespassing situation,
he does see the University as having
some responsibility to deal with the
city's homeless situation.
"It's like we're running two
cities at once. The University's posi-
tion in the whole issue is it's the
city's problem and not the Univer-
sity's problem. Yeah, true - the
city is the only one that can actually
build low-income housing, but the
University is a public institution
and everyone's tax dollars pay for
that. Instead of being holed up in
their own little world, they ought

homeless," he said.
The camouflage reaps benefits
- Cartwright gets students to read
his creative writing and critique the
book he is working on, titled "Real
Life - Shattering of the Dream."
Occasionally, he manages to sit in on
a class, which he hopes will help
him learn how to study again.
Eventually, he wants to return to
school and become a teacher.
But Cartwright's clean-cut
looks only take him so far. Tuesday,
after the last day of an extended
five-week stay at the Ann Arbor
Shelter ran out, Cartwright was
back on the street with his pockets
empty, except for a single bus token
to take him to Ypsilanti for a reha-
bilitation meeting.
"The shelter is not giving us
time," Cartwright said, "But it's
not the shelter's fault, it's the bu-
reaucracy that's behind all this. It's
Gov. Engler. He can go to hell as far

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