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July 18, 2011 - Image 2

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-07-18

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Monday, July 18, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Ann Arbor's homeless tent city faces
scrutiny after string of small crimes

Despite accusations,
camp denies being a
danger to the county
By BRIENNE PRUSAK
Managing News Editor
Ann Arbor's self-governed
homeless tent city, Camp Take
Notice, has recently gained atten-
tion among the community for
their alleged involvement in small
crimes in the neighborhood around
the campground.
Lt. Brian Filipiak of the Washt-
enaw County Sheriff's Depart-
ment said neighbors near CTN
- located west of I-94 off Wagner
Road - expressed concern over
"suspicious activity," like people
throwing personal belongings and
jumping over the guardrails of the
overpass.
The neighborhood has also
seen an increase in parking vio-
lations in relation to CTN, most-
ly from volunteers parking in
no-parking zones, Filipiak said.
However, the only crime the
department can tie directly back
the homeless population at CTN
is an incident where neighbors
reported a patio set had been stolen
from their property and was later
recovered from the camp, accord-
ing to Filipiak.
CTN leader Caleb Poirier said
he doesn't believe the people living
in the camp are harming the com-
munity, but rather they are serving

as additional "eyes andears"to bet-
ter watch over the neighborhood.
"I don't fault people for having
anxiety of (crimes)," Piorier said.
"I think it's an understandable
concern, but this population is not
necessarily of more trouble than
the people who are residing in the
area."
All residents of CTN are
required to promise to restrain
from using illegal substances and
must sign an agreement upon mov-
ing to the camp stating they won't
engage in violent activity or behave
in ways disruptive to the commu-
nity. Poirier said those who break
CTN rules are evicted and removed
from camp premises.
Poirier said the Washtenaw
County Sheriff's Department has
been a great resource for them,
and the department makes weekly
visits to the camp, as requested by
CTN.
"I think (the Sheriff's Depart-
ment) has made the best of a dif-
ficult situation, and I have no
complaints with the way they've
treated us," Poirier said.
University graduate student
Jeff Albanese, a board member of
MISSION and an anthropology
and social work master's student
who studies contemporary tent cit-
ies, said CTN has a good relation-
ship with the Washtenaw County
Sheriff's Department and people
are drawing "premature" connec-
tions between crime and homeless-
ness that further marginalize the
homeless population.

Albanese added the general
public thinks of the homeless pop-
ulation as a group prone to crime,
but said "tent cities do not breed
crime" but rather are part of the,
"American landscape" and have
existed peacefully for years.
"There isn't any concrete evi-
dence between CTN residence and
the crimes (around the camp),"
Albanese added.
Mark Geib, director of the
Michigan Department of Trans-
portation's Brighton Transporta-
tion Service Center, said while
CTN has been on MDOT prop-
erty for more than a year, they've
had little concerns with the camp,
though they do at times worry
about safety issues.
Despite the occasional con-
cern from community members,
CTN has served as an alternative
housing option for the commu-
nity's homeless population as local
shelters have faced difficulty amid
tough economic times.
Don Austin, chief operat-
ing officer at Shelter Association
of Washtenaw County, said they
faced $120,000 in funding cuts this
year effective July 1, which forced
the local homeless shelter to close
its triage center that housed 5to 10
people for short periods of time.
Along with the closure,
employees were shuffled around
within the shelter and some full-
time positions were reduced to
part-time positions, he said.
He added the funding cuts also
prompted the Shelter to focus more

heavily on prevention rather than
assistance to those who are already
homeless.
Since CTN came to the city,
the shelter has seen an increase in
public awareness of homelessness,
Austin said, adding that shedding
light on a serious issue is one of the
greatest resources a group can pro-
vide.
The camp is currently working
with churches in the community to
find a permanent location, Poirier
said, though he acknowledged the
move wouldn't happen overnight.
Brian Nord, president of Mich-
igan Itinerant Shelter System:
Interdependent Out of Necessity
- a non-profit organization that
works with CTN - agreed the
camp needs a permanent location
in order to form closer ties with the
community, especially since the
county has faced local budget cuts
in recent years and many organiza-
tions that help house the homeless
are suffering.
He added CTN is vital to the
community because local services
can only house about 400 people
compared to the approximately
4,700 people who are homeless in
the county at some point through-
out the year.
CTN is gaining prominence
in the community as well as inter-
nally for its organized system that
allows people living there to have
some semblance of control over
their lives, Nord said.
"CTN focuses on community
and self-agency," he said.
In fact, CTN was positively
recognized for its ties to the com-
munity and received an "Adopt
a Highway" sign on Saturday for
their work with the stretch of 1-94
near the camp, according to Brian
Durance, a board member of MIS-
SION.
"A lot of them feel vindicated ...
they feel acknowledged (because
of the sign)," Durance said.
Poirier said there are many
benefits to tent cities, like their
ability to lift people out of pov-
erty and prevent extreme cases of
homelessness by providing struc-
ture and resources such as bus
transportation, food and shelter.
"People are often concerned
because they think tent cities wors-
en homelessness, but instead they
make it visible," Poirier said.

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