Camp Take Notice residents find shelter elsewhere while organizers seek path to permanent camp
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
While Camp Take Notice organizers search for a new location for a permanent camp, church officials in Ann Arbor have noticed an uptick in people gathering at an unofficial shelter on State Street.
After being evicted from their Scio Township location off Wagner Road between M-14 and Interstate 94 in June, organizers from Michigan Itinerant Shelter System Interdependent Out of Necessity (MISSION) say there are three different locations near Ann Arbor they’re looking at purchasing for a new, permanent Camp Take Notice.
Brian Durrance, a MISSION board member, said the search for a permanent location for the organization is still in its early stages. However, three locations — one inside city borders and two outside Ann Arbor city limits — are being discussed as potential places for a new Camp Take Notice.
“We’re looking at three parcels right now; we don’t know what’s going to come of it,” Durrance said. “We know it’s a complicated thing.”
Approximately 70 people were living at Camp Take Notice when it was forced to close in late June. Of those 70, about 40 people had been given one-year rent subsidies through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority because those 40 people were living at the camp at the time the subsidy program was agreed upon.
Durrance said there are only a few of the original 40 people granted rent subsidies who have yet to be housed. Most of the apartments they moved into are on the eastern side of Ypsilanti near the campus of Eastern Michigan University, according to Durrance.
It was a struggle for many former campers to find housing — many had bad credit, criminal histories and a litany of financial problems.
Camp Take Notice first came on the scene in Ann Arbor in 2007 behind the Malletts Creek branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. After being evicted from that space, the camp moved behind the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center in County Farm Park, then to a wooded area behind the Arborland shopping center in 2008. In April 2009, the camp was again evicted and it moved to an area behind the Park and Ride lot near Interstate 94 and Ann Arbor Saline Road.
A year later, the camp was forced to move again, this time to the Scio Township location.
While many campers were directed to go to a state-funded temporary shelter at the Delonis Center in downtown Ann Arbor after the camp was disbanded, some people made their way to the city's First United Methodist Church, 120 S. State St.
At the church, the homeless are allowed to sleep underneath a covered entrance way near the parking lot, according to the Rev. Nancy Lynn. She said it’s been a long-standing church policy to allow the homeless to sleep in that spot, but the crowd has grown since Camp Take Notice closed.
Lynn said she and other church officials began developing a closer relationship with Camp Take Notice leaders after the camp was evicted. She said it’s important for the church community in Ann Arbor to understand the needs of the homeless and to find out how they can help.
“We have really just been starting to build a relationship there,” she said. “It’s a part of what happened during the summer, when there was a real increase in people staying here and part of that is because Camp Take Notice closed.”
The group sleeping outside the church is not allowed on the grounds until after 10 p.m., when most of the church’s activities are finished. For the most part, the gathering is peaceful and there are some parameters, Lynn said. However, there aren’t any real rules because of the unofficial nature of the gathering.
There is a sense of community among the regulars, she said, and there are a couple of people that church leaders rely on to keep people under control. She said they’ve really taken ownership of the spot.
“We have a couple people who are regulars that we have gotten to know and they feel some sense of ownership and responsibility,” she said. “We rely on them to help keep things quiet and under control. It’s really not been a problem.”
Durrance said MISSION has been able to keep track of the campers who were unable to find housing and have resorted to going to places like the First United Methodist Church. He said other campers have gone to the Bluffs Nature Area and under the Fuller Road Bridge.
Camp Take Notice is still holding its weekly meetings on Sundays at an organizer’s home and they’re regularly attended, Durrance said. The group continues to talk about other options for a homeless encampment, such as rotating it among participating churches.
He said it’s important for unofficial organizations like Camp Take Notice to continue to exist in order to serve the homeless.
“That’s been the artificial policy of the homeless in Ann Arbor for years,” he said. “We have unofficial programs that help them and Camp Take Notice fell right into that. It wasn’t acknowledged by the other organizations that help the homeless but it served a very important role.”