with gallery: Camp Take Notice residents upset with MDOT 'eviction,' encouraged by housing subsidies
Residents near the entrance to the homeless encampment Camp Take Notice had mixed reactions to Wednesday's news that they would soon be asked to move from their current location.
All said they were disappointed the Michigan Department of Transportation will effectively evict them on June 22, but at the same time they felt encouraged that the Michigan State Housing Development Authority would be providing housing subsidies for campers.
Representatives of Camp Take Notice, MSHDA, MDOT and charitable organizations involved with the encampment met on Tuesday to discuss the move-out date and the 40-household subsidy program that MSHDA is making available to campers that will provide up to a year’s rent.
The cap for the subsidy - based on the standard of living in the dwelling's location as well as other factors such as how many people reside in the unit - in Ann Arbor is roughly $750 for a single bedroom apartment and around $950 for a two-bedroom.
A home occupied by more than one resident is still counted as one “household,” so 40 households could very well provide for the 65 people reportedly living at the tent city. The camp is located in Scio Township, between Jackson and Dexter-Ann Arbor roads off of Wagner Road near M-14 on an MDOT right of way.
“I think the MSHDA thing is a good thing and people ought to take advantage of it,” said James Paterson, who has lived at the camp since last July and has been homeless a year-and-a-half. “A year’s rent? Can’t nothing beat that for a year. If you can’t get your life together in a year something’s going wrong.”
Paterson said he hopes something similar to Camp Take Notice - an outdoor self-governed tent city with less capacity limitations than traditional homeless shelters - can still exist somewhere in the area.
“At least here it’s a structured environment, people aren’t walking down to Ann Arbor, knocking on your doorstep,” Paterson said. “There’s a big need, people have been coming down here the past three or four weeks like you wouldn’t believe.”
Jackie Starkey was upset that campers and supporters have been so vocal in their support of the camp, like at last Thursday’s rally along Wagner Road. She thinks the exposure and people’s drive to make it a permanent operation forced MDOT’s hand.
“It was a long time coming,” said Starkey, who has been at the camp for nearly a year. Starkey and fellow camper Scott Ellinger were both fearful the solution is only a temporary one that won't be able to provide the unique support Camp Take Notice has given residents.
“I think it’s really a shame the state has to shut (Camp Take Notice) down,” said Ellinger, who has been at the camp since April. “It’s just a temporary fix to a problem, it’s not going to solve anything it’s all around chaos and mess at this point in my opinion.”
While there has been widespread support of the camp, many residents will be glad to see it move along. A petition has been circulating to neighbors and nearby businesses in an attempt to expedite the eviction of late.
“This has gone on far too long. We were told it would be a temporary thing and now two years later we were told that not only were they not making plans to move, but they were making plans to make it a permanent camp,” said a resident on nearby Elizabeth Street on Wednesday, who asked not to be identified.
The woman said she’s sympathetic to the plight of the homeless, but lost faith in the camp when she visited and no one took her up on an offer to do yard work at her home for $8 an hour.
“To be honest with you, we think a lot of the people down there are not homeless. We think a lot of the people down there are partying and hanging out or are kids that don’t want to follow their parents' rules,” she said. “We’ve tried to be compassionate and understanding but this has just gone on far too long.”