6B Wednesday, September 22, 2010 // The Statement
Three miles from
town is a make-
board and strict
rules on drug
use, the camp is
30 or so individu-
als than just a
place to live -
it's a community.
BY SUZANNE JACOBS
PHOTOS BY JAKE FROMM
TOP: Chairs for the weekly camp
meeting set up in front of the camp's
communal tent. Residents of Camp
Take Notice use the tent as a stor-
age space, a makeshift kitchen and a
place to gather and socialize.
little more than three miles
west of the University is a small,
unassuming patch of woods wedged
between Wagner Road and I-94. To
any passersby, the unkempt piece of
land is nothing more than a blur on
their periphery,but tosome, theunder-
belly of that thick canopy of leaves is
home - at least for now.
Camp Take Notice is an adult-only,
self-governing, drug and alcohol-free
community of individuals who, for
reasons specific to each person, can't
afford traditional housing. So, inhab-
itants resort to living in tents, a basic
form of shelter they can provide for
Looking around at the 20 to 30 resi-
dents of CTN, it might not take long to
see a familiar face, maybe even a few.
That's because during the day, the
campers venture into town to go to
work or look for work if they are unem-
ployed, to stop by the public library,
to visit friends and family or to do any
number of other activities any typical
Ann Arbor resident might do.
During his stay at the camp this
summer, CTN resident Mikey, for
example, usually got up between 5:30
and 6 a.m. for the free breakfast offered
at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church on
North Division. After breakfast, he
headed to the libraryto check his email
and then looked around town for work
as a day laborer. For Mikey, distinctions
between him and the rest of the com-
munity lay only in where he lives.
"Once I get into town, I'm just, you
know, another person walking down
the sidewalk," he said with a casual
shrug and flick of his cigarette. "That's
really the only difference between me
and the guy next to me walking down
the sidewalk, is at the end of the day
he goes home to his house, I go home
to my tent."
Mikey, 31, drove a shuttle bus at the
Detroit Metro Airport for four years
until he was laid off at the beginning of
this summer. He was one of many air-
port employees, he said, who lost their
jobs to the recession and were denied
After about two and a half months
without any sort of income, Mikey
eventually found himself at the Delonis
Center - a homeless shelter on Huron
Avenue. After being asked to leave the
shelter for using the elevator without
permission from a staff member, he
sought refuge at CTN. Mikey said he
knew about the camp because he had
visited it as a volunteer when living at
Like Mikey, everyone at the camp
has their own story to tell, but onething
they all have in common is the part
where they pitch a tent at CTN.
Ann Arbor native Caleb Poirier
founded CTN in 2009. His story began
a few years prior, when a medical con-
dition led to him losing his job as a
paramedic at the University hospital.
Not wanting his friends and family to
see him in a situation where he could
not provide for himself, Poirier moved
to Seattle, Washington. Without any
income, he soon became homeless and
took shelter at a local 100-person tent
city run by the non-profit organization
Seattle Housing and Resource Effort.
By the end of his two years in Seattle,
Poirier had become a community orga-
nizer for the camp.
The possibility of starting a tent
city in Ann Arbor started to creep into
Poirier's mind after a family emergency
brought him back from the west coast
in August 2008. Upon his return, he
began to realize that the shelter system
in Washtenaw County could not ade-
quately accommodate the local home-
According to Ellen Schulmeister,
executive director of the Shelter Asso-
ciation of Washtenaw County, the
limited capacity of the shelter system
leaves about 200 to 300 people out on
the streets on any given night.
"There isn't a community that I
know of that has enough shelter beds,"
she said. "It's very hard to have a shelter
bed for everybody who needs one."
The Washtenaw County Office of
Community Development reported
that the number of homeless individu-
als in the county grew from 3,940 in
2006 to 4,618 in 2009, and Schulmeis-
ter said she expects the recession to
push that number even higher. She
noted that any individual who make
less than 15 dollars an hour would have
trouble finding affordable housing in
In the face of this harsh reality, Poiri-
er began to conceptualize CTN. He said
he started out by simply forming friend-
ships within the homeless community
and having "thousands of one-on-one
conversations with people" about the
idea of a tent city. The camp began to
materialize when Poirier started shar-
ing his camping supplies with other
people who, in turn, shared their sup-
plies with additional people.
Poirier said that homelessness, like
death and taxes, will always exist, but
he hopes that CTN can serve as a tem-
porary solution while people get back
on their feet.
"I'm not attempting (to) create a uto-
pia," he said. "What I am shooting for
is having an intermediate step, a lowest
rung on the ladder for people to climb
out of poverty."
In June of last year while the camp
was still in its infancy, Poirier met
Brian Nord, a doctoral student in the
physics department at the University.
The two got to talking about the pros-
pect of a tent community, and inspired
by Poirier's vision, Nord decided to get
Nord said that far too often he saw
people walk by panhandlers on the
street and glance down at them with
reproachful looks on their faces, as if
to say "Just get a job, man." He felt that
the disconnect between the homeless
community and the rest of Ann Arbor
came largely from ignorance and
stigma and that telling someone to
"just get a job" was an unrealistically
simple solution for a complicated and
In CTN, Nord said, he saw the pos-
sibility to create a positive environment
for the homeless and a medium through
which to educate the rest of the com-
munity about the homeless population.
"(The camp) centralizes this group
of people that want to have a little bit
better environment to live in, which
means that if people want to change
their habits and their lifestyle, then the
rest of the community is more efficient-
ly able to help them," he said. "I think
that's a really big positive."
Nord is now the president of the
board of directors of the non-profit
group Michigan Itinerant Shelter Sys-
tem: interdependent Out of Necessity
(MISSION), which Nord said serves as
CTN's "buffer to the outside world."
As trespassing laws have forced the
camp to move several times - it start-
ed behind the Toys R' Us at Arborland
then relocated to an area of public land
near I-94 off of Ann Arbor-Saline Road
and in May arrived at its current loca-
tion off of Wagner Road - MISSION
has served as the camp's conduit to law-
yers and law enforcement officers.
While MISSION facilitates interac-
tions between the camp and the com-
munity at large, business within CTN
is dealt with entirely by those staying
at the camp through democratic self-
Every Thursday night, the residents
congregate in a big circle and hold a
formal, mandatory camp meeting. The
meeting always begins with nomina-
tions for a chair and a minute taker,
followed by introductions around the
circle and a review of the minutes from
the previous meeting.
Typical topicson the meeting's agen-
da include sanitation and safety con-
cerns, but occasionally, the camp has
more serious issues to address.
On a balmy Thursday night in mid_
August, for example, two recent events
at the camp - a drug overdose and a
one-night stay by a minor - threatened
the integrity of the camp and chal-
lenged its residents to come up with
better ways to avoid such incidents in
Always wary of goings on at CTN
attracting too much attention from
local authorities, the residents held
nothing back when discussing the
serious issues before them. At times
tempers flared and accusations flew,
but no one left the circle until a con-
sensus was made on how to better
enforce camp policies.
By the end of the meeting, the camp
voted that those elected to the security
committee would enforce a strict zero-
tolerance policy when dealing with
drugs and alcohol in the camp, and
would remove anyone who violates that
policy on the first strike. The residents
also voted that anyone who wishes to
stay at the camp must be able to prove
through some form of identification
that he or she is overthe age of 18.
The unwavering determination of
the residents at that meeting to main-
tain the respectability and legitimacy
of the camp was a clear testament to
how much they value the community
that has formed in that small patch of
While obvious difficulties come with
A bathroom attendant caught
Bruno Mars using cocaine in the
Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel's casino
bathroom early Sunday morning.
Mars, whose real name is Peter
Hernandez, is set to have his debut
album released in two weeks.
Former Brighton, Mich. defense at-
torney Ronald James Plunkett was
sentenced to three years of proba-
tion Monday for providing cocaine
to a 22-year-old Ypsilanti woman
who died of a drug overdose in his
Ann Arbor apartment.
visit to Grea
protest in Ed
victims of pm
01 2 4 5 6 7 89 10
quotes of the week on the cheap
"Now is not the time to take it down a notch. Now is the getting home on a budget
time for all good men to freak out for freedom."
STEPHEN COLBERT, Comedy Central host, announcing he will host a rally called
"March to Keep Fear Alive" in an effort to compete against colleague Jon Stewart's
"Rally to Restore Sanity" at the same time and place.
"It's a terrific performance. It's the performance of his
CASEY AFFLECK, director of "I'm Still Here," speaking of Joaquin Phoenix's act-
ing both on- and off-stage as a drug-addicted aspiring rapper, pausing his acting
career for two years to make the documentary.
"While it may be an act of God, it doesn't make it any easier
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, mayor of New York City, on the brief but powerful ILLUSTRATON BYKATlE EBETS
storm, including two tornadoes, that affected New York City and its sur-
rounding area Thursday, killing at least one person and injuring others. rom time to time, it's nice to escape the University chaos and get back to the quiet safety
lof our childhood homes. Unfortunately, however, weekend getaways don't come without a
price tag. So, if you need a weekend away, here's how to get home on the cheap.
the rules For those who live too far to drive home, it can seem unreasonable to leave campus for a
_ _ _r_ _ _ _ _ _weekend. But there are ways to get around the sky-high flight prices. When booking a flight,
make sure you choose a popular destination and time to leave. Airlines often overbook and
No. 266: No. 267: No. 268: need volunteers to be "bumped" to a later flight, typically with a thank you in the form of a
Facebook Don't ever e-mail a Hamburgers are the $300 travel voucher. If that doesn't work, just complain. After you land, just write a letter to
Don't Fthe airline complaining about anything - a rude flight attendant, lost luggage, plane delays,
friend someone when professor on your new burritos. you name it - and ask for them to compensate you. Chances are they will.
they're in the same middle school hotmail If you're lucky enough to live within driving distance of the University and don't have a car,
just mooch off friends. Whether you live in Chicago or West Bloomfield, chances are you can
room as you. account. find a friend who lives there too. Or, if all else fails, there is always hitchhiking.
Have advice for life on the cheap? Let us know E-mail email@example.com.
by the num bersCOURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES
The number of gay and lesbian individu- The number of people kicked out The number of votes the Democrats needed
als estimated to be currently serving in the of the service underthe "don't ask, to pass a bill that would allow the repeal of
military. don't tell" policy. "don't ask, don'ttell." The vote was 56 to 43.
Wednesday, September 2 2010 // The Statement 36
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news in review
Five of the most talked-about stories of the week, ranked in ascending order of actual importance
ct XVI marked his first In a surprise outcome of the Dela-
t Britain in almost 30 ware Republican Senate primary, Tea
day, amid a storm of Party candidate Christine O'Donnell
surrounding child sexual beat GOP Rep. Mike Castle, despite
tions - there was a complaints that O'Donnell illegally
lingburgh, Scotland of spent $20,000 of campaign money
edophilic priests. in 2009 and 2010.
Democratic efforts to have the
"don't ask, don't tell" law repealed
suffered a major setback Tuesday,
when the party failed to win the 60
votes needed to advance a defense
bill with a provision to conditionally
repeal the law.