Justice Unhoused

City leaders hear backlash over treatment of the unhoused

Kzoo residents are irate over the clearing of homeless encampments. City leaders say they had little choice.

Kalamazoo city leaders got an earful Monday night about their decision to clear out a homeless encampment near the Kalamazoo River two weeks ago. Residents were incensed by what they called “inhumane” treatment of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“The city has always treated its poor and unhoused residents like trash to be discarded,” said one person during the Kalamazoo City Commission’s meeting on Oct. 18.

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The so-called Ampersee encampment at one point held more than 100 people with nowhere else to live. On the morning of Oct. 6, public safety officers evicted several people who hadn’t left after three weeks of warning.

City Manager Jim Ritsema defended the move, saying it had to happen for the sake of safety.

“Conditions presented significant risks to the health and safety of those living at the encampment, those who visit the site to provide support and services, as well as those living and working nearby,” he said.

Deputy City Manager Laura Lam echoed that sentiment in an interview with NowKalamazoo over the weekend. She said the city is working with local agencies to provide services to the former residents of the Ampersee encampment, but it probably falls short.

“I can … acknowledge: It’s not soon enough, not quick enough, not big enough, not good enough,” she said. “And that’s where we just have to keep trying on it.”


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