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September 10, 1992 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-09-10

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The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition-City - Thursday, September 10, 1992 - Page 3
Sgrows worse for Anna
bor's honmneless comma
Despite student concern, city, state, and 'U'offcils ignore plight hip

by Tami Pollak.
News about the homeless is easy
to ignore - because so much of it
isn't new at all.
While the numbers continue to
grow at an insidiously steady pace,
facts about the homeless can turn
from striking to stale within a
week's worth of news. 300,000 or
500,000 nationwide, recession vic-
tims or mentally ill or drug addicted,
pan handling or empty-can collect-
ing, no matter how loud the reports
grow, they inevitably blend into one
inconspicuous murmur.
Although hands reaching out
from sidewalks in front of Ann
Arbor convenience stores are less
easily ignored than front page head-
lines, students from Beverly Hills
will learn almost as quickly as those
from Brooklyn that street people will
disappear, at least for the moment, if
they turn their heads and cross the
The unending rumble about the
homeless is easy to ignore.
This past year, howeverthe
steady hum of Ann Arbor's home-
less problem reached a higher pitch
when Michigan's legislature and
Gov. John Engler decided to cut-off
its General Assistance (G.A.)
G.A. - a welfare program which
helped single, able-bodied people
without dependents - allowed
83,000 people in Michigan to make
ends meet. When it was cut in the
fall, people who could once pay their
rent were back on the streets.
And while assistants to the gov-

Together, these cuts bled Ann
Arbor's homeless dry.
With Washtenaw County, which
encompasses Ann Arbor, vacillating
between second and third as one of
the state's largest recipient's of
Emergency Aid, area shelters were
forced to cut their services - some
that previously provided 24-hour
shelter were cut to night shelters,
work training programs were com-
promised so that basic necessities
could be met, stricter deadlines were
put on the amount of time any one
person could reside at the shelter.
Furthermore, with the loss of
thousands of jobs from shut down of
General Motors' Willow Run plant
in Ann Arbor's neighbor city,
Ypsilanti, the economic situation for
many Ann Arbor residents has never
looked bleaker.
But economic hardships were not
the only factors plaguing Ann
Arbor's homeless this year - they
were also, many local homeless say,
victims of class discrimination by
campus officials.
Within the first two weeks of the
fall semester, University administra-
tors enacted a policy which required
non-students be accompanied by a
student with University I.D. in order
to gain entrance into the Union.
At the time the Union policy was
instated, officials said the action was
meant simply to monitor weekend
traffic in and out of the building -
and had nothing to do with homeless
people, who often ate at the public
restaurant's in the Union basement.
However, when a homeless man

University Department of Public
Safety (DPS) Lt. Vernon Baisden
says that the homeless are not dis-
criminated against any more so than
any other non-student who does not
have business on campus.
Baisden said it is department pol-
icy to read the trespass act to any
non-student who appears to be lin-
'I don't like to sit on
my tush and collect
welfare. When you
hold a job, at least you
have some sense of
pride. There just aren't
any jobs.'
- Gary Lamb
gering on campus without a set
Baisden added that it is up to an
officer's own discretion to decide
what constitutes lingering, and what
a key candidate to approach looks
Such selective and sporadic en-
forcement of trespassing laws stems
from the University's need to uphold
a certain image, say many of the
"The University police don't re-
ally bother us too much until some-
one like George Bush is coming to

at City Hall, and culminating in
April with the establishment of
Salvation City: The Poor Peoples'
Park - a square of land just blocks
from city hall taken over by tents of
Ann Arbor's homeless - Ann
Arbor's homeless and homeless ac-
tivists have turned up the volume of
their demands.
Perhaps the most vocal amongst
the activist groups is the Homeless
Action Committee (HAC). An orga-
nization of both students and Ann
Arbor community members and the
homeless themselves, the group has
been responsible for organizing
many of the recent rallies against
HAC's most memorable offen-
sive this year was a building
takeover on a Friday afternoon in
late November.
After investigating a partially un-
occupied office complex downtown,
HAC members tookover the fourth
floor of the building for about five
hours, until 9 p.m. that evening,
when the Ann Arbor Police
Department sent officers to arrest the
group for trespassing.
At that time, HAC members Jenn
Rubin and Jennifer Hall, who served
as tour guides for Ann Arbor resi-
dents who were invited into the
building by HAC protesters, told
passerbys that the building was 60
percent vacant.
HAC protesters said until 1982
the building had provided more than
60 units of low-income housing.
"It could easily be converted into
an overflow shelter for Ann Arbor's
homeless," Rubin explained. She
went on to say that once First of
America Bank, which was in the
process of repossessing the building,
gained ownership, they could allow
the homeless to occupy it through
the Community Reinvestment Act of
While no significant gains came
as a result of that protest, nor any
other of HAC's activities this past
year, perhaps what HAC did succeed
in accomplishing is an image im-
provement and a heightened sense of
community awareness.
Marian Faupel, an attorney who
works in the building HIAC took
over in November, said she was im-
pressed by HAC's protests, although
she was put off by them at first.
"When they first came here, I felt
threatened," Faupel said. "But once I
started to get to know some of the
individuals, I began to have a differ-
ent attitude ... I would like to stay
here, but it would be easier for me to
find a new place than it is for the
Such a willingness to help seems
to be a general trend in the commu-
nity and amongst students, even if
University DPS and building policy
seems to go against this grain.
Indeed, the specific goal of many
University courses, like the
Psychology department's Project
Outreach and the Sociology depart-
ment's Project Serve programs, is to
get students out into the community,
to increase awareness of the prob-
lems that students can easily forget
about while on campus.
Students in Outreach and Serve
programs volunteer a minimum of
four hours a week at various sites,

A homeless man watches two children playing in a park on the comer of South
University and Walnut, where many homeless people gather.


like the Shelter Association of Ann
Arbor, or Prospect Place Family
Shelter in Ypsilanti.
"It really gives you a perspective
on the situation that you could never
get from reading coursepak articles
on the homeless," said LSA graduate
Jesse Snyder, who completed a
Project Outreach course last winter.
Additionally, classes that have
not always incorporated community
outreach into their curriculums, like
sections of Women's Studies 240,
and Political Science 300, have re-
cently decided to include action pro-
jects - like working with homeless
- in their requirements.
Outside of school, many Greek
and Black Greek Association orga-
nizations fulfill philanthropy goals
with fund-raisers for the homeless.
Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service
oriented fraternity, organized a shell
ter clean-up near the end of school
last winter term.
Furthermore, campus kiosks are
always filled with announcements
from various student-organized

However, just 30. days later,
when the permit ran out, the city re-
fused to grant a new permit.
The reason for rejecting the
Homeless Union's request for an
extension, said Robert Gunzel, of the
County's Corporation Council, was
that homeless were sleeping and
putting up residence on the land.
Gunzel said such arrangements
were not allowed for by the original
Thus, while the city .has filed an
injunction against the Homeless
Union in order to remove the tents
from city land, neither the city nor
the county has helped make aly
plans fors where people currently
living in Salvation City will be able
to pitch their tents next.
But the activists at Poor People's
Park have not lost hope, and say the
possibility for change is strong with
the upcoming election season.
"They keep telling us that they
can't afford to have us in their bud-
get. Well, we can't afford to have
them in office anymore," said

'The University police don't really bother us
too much until someone like George Bush is
coming to talk to the graduating class, or if
it's the big Notre Dame-Michigan game.
Then it's like 'time for all the homeless
people to crawl back into their holes -
we're having visitors." - John Putney

groups which gather food for thel
In the community, Food
Gatherers, a group of restaurants
which includes Ann Arbor's ownj
Zingerman's Delicatessen, helps do-. -
nate food and money to Ann Arbor's
Therefore, although' the commu-l
nity - to a measurable extent -
appears to be aware and concerned
about the local homeless problem,
the city appears to be doing little to .i
remddy the situation.
Tent city - established by the
Homeless Union, an organization of
mostly homeless Ann Arborites -
has become the latest evidence of the
city's failures to deal with the issue.
Rallying around the cries of
"Housing is not a privilege, it's a
right," a group of homeless received'
a permit to put up tents on a square
of land at the outskirts of downtown.

Rhonda Sweed, speaker at a recent
Salvation City rally.
But one powerful state politicea
position that people will not have the
power to change for two more years
is the governor's office.
And although bumper' stickers
urging the recall of Oov. Engler
have dotted Ann Arbor's streets
since just after his inauguration, the
Republican governor's plans for
welfare rehauls continue to leave out
the group plagued by G.A. cuts and
Emergency Aid reductions.
"The shelter is not' giving us
time," said Roy Cartwright, an Ann
Arborhomeless man. "But it's not
the shelter's fault, it's the bureau-
cracy that's behind all this. It's Gov.
Engler. He can go to hell as far as
I'm concerned. He cuts off tur gen-
eral aid and says.were should be
working. Can I put him down as a
job reference?" Cartwrig'ht asked.


Two homeless men display the Ann Arbor News article which tells of the county's decision to close the "poor people's park,"
Salvation City, the day the permit ran out. The man on the right, who identifies himself as Sylvester, is pictured on the paper's
front page.
error said the cuts were meant to en- was stabbed in front of the building talk to the graduating class, or if it'
courage people who were depending in January, LSA senior Priti the big Notre Dame-Michigar
..on welfare to get out work, many of Marwah, who chaired the Michigan game," said John Putney, a homeles
Ann Arbor's homeless said they feel Union Board of Review, admitted man in Ann Arbor. "Then it's like
that is easier said than done. that the move was, in part, meant to 'time for all the homeless people t
"I don't like to sit on my tush and keep out street people. crawl back into their holes - we're
collect welfare," said Gary Lamb "It breaks my heart to even have having visitors,"' Putney said.
last fall. "When you hold a job, at an access policy," Marwah said. The state budget cuts, couple
d least you have some sense of pride. "But someone has to take a hard-line with the general state of recession
There just aren't any jobs." approach and protect the students of and mixed together with the
To make matters worse, at the the University." University's -increasingly obvious
same time the G.A. cuts were en- But the Union is not the only anti-homeless policies, have given
-.acted, the Michigan legislature chose University facility that seems to treat homeless advocacy groups in Ann
to limit the state's Emergency Aid the homeless like undesirables, Arbor reason to scream louder thi
Program - which helps fund home- many of the homeless say. They are year in an attempt to stir the inerti
less shelters and soup kitchen - by kicked out of libraries, off of Diag of the homeless situation.
X65 percent. grass, off of benches in Angell Hall. Beginning in the fall with a rally


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