Justice

Homeless advocates were not warned of decision to clear homeless encampment

Police forcibly removed people from the Ampersee encampment last week. Homeless advocates scrambled to help.

Homeless advocates with Kalamazoo County’s Continuum of Care found out early on October 6 that police planned to clear out the city’s largest homeless encampment. By that point, the sweep was already underway.

Volunteers and service providers scrambled to get down to the Ampersee encampment on the city’s east side. There, they found public safety officers rustling homeless residents out of their tents. Many had less than five minutes to gather belongings before being hustled off the property.

“We had no idea it was coming,” Continuum of Care Director Sara Jacobs told MLive. That’s despite being consulted earlier about what might need to happen if the site were to be cleared.

An estimated 180 people voluntarily left or were forcibly evicted from the Ampersee encampment over the course of several weeks. City officials initially said the site would be shut down September 29 before backing off a week. That bought residents some time, but also gave a false sense of hope they might be able to stay.

Ultimately, it was city officials’ decision to clear the encampment. It was also their decision not give advance notice to support services who might have been able to help, nor to the residents they planned to remove.

[MLive]