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May 04, 2010 - Image 2

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2010-05-04

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21

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

State police evict homeless community

Deemed trespassers,
tent city residents forced
to relocate
By SUZANNE JACOBS
Daily StaffReporter
Last Tuesday, while University stu-
dents were busy studying for finals and
city officials were preparing for Presi-
dent Barack Obama's visit to campus, a
small communityofhomeless individu-
als living just south of campus faced an
ultimatum - relocate or risk prosecu-
tion.
This group of homeless individuals
took up residence in a wooded patch of
public land near interstate I-94 and Ann
Arbor-Saline Road. But after Michigan
State Police issued a notice that the
residence constituted trespassing, the
group was forced to pack up and relo-
cate, raising questions about the rights
of Ann Arbor's homeless population.
The group, called Camp Take Notice,
is a tent community of homeless Ann
Arbor citizens that, according to its
website, aims to "provide a safe, sober
and drug-free tent city, where the
homeless population can receive food
and shelter."
Tate Williams, a current resident of
CTN, said he and Caleb Poirier, a native
of Ann Arbor, sat down together more

than twoyears ago to hash out the rules
and bylaws of the camp. With the val-
ues of "interdependence and self-gov-
ernance" in place, Williams said the
camp was ready to grow.
CTN was inspired by a larger net-
work of tent cities in Seattle, Wash-
ington. Poirer, who lived at one of the
Seattle camps for two years, said he
wanted to bring the vision back to Ann
Arbor.
Poirer said CTN is looking to partner
with local churches willing to donate
private land for the camp, but after
two years of meetings with pastors and
church board members, it has had no
luck.
Poirier added that he understands
that the prospect of taking on a home-
less community is daunting, but he is
confident that somewhere there is a
church that is up to the task.
"It's very scary if you haven't seen it
done before," he said. "I have no doubt
that as long as this group sticks togeth-
er, we will crack the egg."
"The churches themselves want to
give the support, but the people within
that church community still have the
stigma (against the homeless)," Wil-
liams said.
Robert Braun, one of the camp's 13
residents as of Saturday, spoke highly of
CTN and the community environment.
"I think people are just more happy
here," said Braun. "I just like the envi-

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SALAM RIDA/Daily
Caleb, a resident of Tent City, lived in a similar camp in Seattle, Washington before bring-
ing the vision of a self-governed homeless community to Ann Arbor.

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ronment here. It's quiet. It's peaceful."
Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney with
the American Civil Liberties Union of
Michigan, praised CTN's vision and its
willingness to assist homeless people.
"They maintain themselves, and this
is exactly the type of (community) we
should be allowing to happen," she said.
The ACLU issued a press release last
Wednesday, stating that it was "gravely
concerned" by the eviction of the home-
less community from the public land.
Rossman added that the reloca-
tion violated the rights of camp resi-
dents, saying, "It's simply not a crime
to be homeless." However, she said the
forced relocation could promote dia-
logue about the ethical treatment of
homeless people.
"We think that this is the perfect
opportunity to put our most positive
foot forward and use this as a time to
show... the way that Michigan can treat
the homeless," she said. "I think, in the
short term, what the ACLU really hopes
is (that) we can use this as an opportu-
nity to meet with state officials...and
think about some common sense solu-
tions."
Brian Nord, a Rackham student and
the president of the board of directors
for Michigan Itinerant Shelter System:
Interdependent out of Necessity - a
non-profit organization in Ann Arbor
that supports local tent cities - said the
issue of CTN trespassing on state land
boils down to the camp residents' con-
stitutional rights.
Nord said he believes evicting the
residents of CTN would violate their
constitutional rights to due process and
to protection from cruel and unusual

punishment.
"You have to establish that the bur-
den on the people whose rights you
think are being violated... is larger than
the burden on the public," he said.
Michigan State Police Lt. Wynonia
Sturdivant said, in an interview with
The Wall Street Journal, that the police
informed the residents that they were
trespassing, but ultimately, the choice
to move was their own.
"I didn't remove them," Sturdivant
told the reporter. "They voluntarily
moved."
But Nord said that Sturdivant's por-
trayal of the situation was misleading
and unfairly removed accountability
from the state police.
"The threat of being evicted and
thrown in jail is a forceful movement,"
Nord said. "And for her to say it in that
way is... not telling the entire story."
Michigan State Police Sgt. Chris
Pascoe said the eviction was the culmi-
nation of a long effort to remove CTN
from state land.
"We've been trying to throw them
out over the last year or so. Since last
October, we've probably been in there
10 times," Pascoe said. "They're tres-
passing on state land. It's a health issue
obviously. There are no facilities there
for them. They're basically squatting on
state land there, and we've had a lot of
complaints."
The complaints received by the state
police have not come from the pub-
lic but rather mostly from within the
camp, according to Pascoe. One such
complaint, he said, was a case of domes-
tic violence that involved a stabbing.
See TENT CITY, Page 7

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