1/25/2023: Counting the unhoused

News for those who live, work, and play in Kalamazoo County.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

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NowKalamazoo Managing Editor Kristie May joined a crew tasked with counting the unhoused in Kalamazoo. Find out what she learned. Also: A pair of Portage firefighters were honored for their quick action on Friday that saved the life of a trapped motorist. And a WMed official with ties to an ongoing controversy at the Kalamazoo Public Schools has left his job.

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Two people stand in the snow in the middle of a homeless encampment.
Two team leads fulfill an observation form after someone, sheltering in a tent, declines to participate in the Point-in-Time Count survey. Kristie May | NowKalamazoo

From the managing editor’s notebook: A snapshot of homelessness in Kalamazoo

NowKalamazoo’s Kristie May helped conduct a nighttime count of anyone sleeping outdoors within Kalamazoo County. Here’s what she learned.

The Point-in-Time (PIT) count is a literal count of people experiencing homelessness in a community on a single night. It must be done at least every other year for a community to receive certain federal funding for homelessness. On Monday night, I joined 27 volunteers to help conduct a count of those considered unsheltered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This includes individuals and families who may be sleeping in tents, cars, parks, camping grounds, abandoned buildings, bus or train stations, or parking lots.

There was a stalled start as organizers reworked their maps after learning many people moved from their usual outdoor sleeping spots out of fear of being surveyed. They’re skeptical of people’s intentions, plus there’s the paranoia of being found and cleared out by police according to informants.

I was placed into team one, along with five other volunteers, to survey the west side of the city. A boundary was set in between the U.S. 131 bus route and West Kilgore Road from north to south, and between 4th street and Westnedge Avenue from east to west. For the nearly 3.5 hours we spent searching (our group was one of the earliest to wrap up for the night), we found three people who were willing to participate. Observation forms were filled for two who did not want to answer questions. Slight surveying was done additionally, in this and other select areas, by more experienced volunteers at later times in the night according to organizers.

Two of the three unhoused participants were initially hesitant with us, expressing that police had been by a couple days before demanding they leave the area soon. NowKalamazoo has not yet confirmed those reports with law enforcement, however the Continuum of Care (which leads the count) says all municipalities were notified ahead of time about the PIT count.

There was some frustration from the same two participants who say their expressed needs have been unmet for a substantial time.

Studies have found PIT count results can miss large segments of the unhoused population. A 2017 report from the National Law Center on Homelessness faults the methods (directed by HUD) for a significant undercount of the unhoused population. Director of Continuum of Care, Patrese Griffin, acknowledges the room for improvement. She’s already bringing about change, with this year’s first open invitation to community members to participate. She says the response was greater than her team imagined, with 21 of 27 volunteers being first-timers. That’s something Griffin considers a telling sign of what’s happening in Kalamazoo.

Firefighters honored for daring crash rescue

Two Portage firefighters were honored by the city council last night for a dramatic rescue that was caught on video last Friday. Two cars collided near the intersection of Shaver Road and East Centre Avenue. One of the cars flipped onto its side at the railroad crossing just before a train came through. The driver, who has not been identified, couldn’t get out of the car. The firefighters rescued him just before the train hit the vehicle.

Firefighters Ron Leatherman and Jacob Mahoney told the council the driver was lucky. The accident happened very close to a Portage fire station. Also, the driver was in a Jeep and not a vehicle with a solid roof. One of the firefighters said the entire incident was a matter of just 13 seconds. If they hadn’t been so close or if the car had been more difficult to get into, the situation could have turned out very different. The accident remains under investigation and no other names have been released.

More News You Need To Know

WMed official tied to KPS controversies

An administrator at the Western Michigan University-affiliated Homer Stryker, M.D. School of Medicine (also known as WMed) has left his post amid a controversy at Kalamazoo Public Schools. Jack Mosser was the Associate Dean for Development and Alumni Affairs until he left at the beginning of the year. For five months last year Mosser had a side job as a fundraiser for the Kalamazoo Public Schools Foundation. KPS paid him $76,000 for that work.

The controversy comes from the fact that the KPS Board of Education never approved of the creation of the foundation nor the hiring of Mosser. That was one of the reasons KPS Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jim English was fired in December. WMed confirmed to WMUK that Mosser had left his position with the school, but wouldn’t clarify whether he was fired or resigned. [WMUK]

K Twp clerk announces resignation

Kalamazoo Township Clerk Mark Miller will step down next month, well before his term is up. The township clerk is an elected position in Kalamazoo Township. Miller has served in that position since 2016 and has been on the board even longer. Miller said his resignation will be effective Feb. 28. That’s to give the rest of the board time to find someone to take his place. If no one is appointed, an election will be held in May.

The Kalamazoo Township Board of Trustees has faced some turmoil recently. Last fall, two township fire chiefs were abruptly fired following an investigation into how they handled harassment complaints in their department. The board held several dramatic meetings in the following months where supporters, detractors, and the fired chiefs themselves argued over whether they should have been fired. Miller said his decision to leave has nothing to do with the controversies. “But it is the stress of working for 24 hours straight on Election Day, after weeks of long hours leading up to it, that is my primary reason for leaving,” he said. [MLive]

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

Distillery Tour – Green Door Distilling Co.
5:15PM 1/25

Board Game Night – Main Street Pub, W. Main St.
6:00PM 1/25

Art Hop Bootcamp for Venues (virtual) – Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo
6:00PM 1/25

Planting Native Species Using Real Ecosystems as a Guide – Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones
7:00PM 1/25

2 of a Kind (Steve Kamerling and Joe Ferguson) – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 1/25

Neon & Cocktails: A 90’s Party – Crafted Copper
8:30PM 1/25

Catalyst University 2023 – Southwest Michigan First
8:00AM 1/26

Architectural Influence and Effectual Travel: An Artist Talk with Seth Green – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
6:00PM 1/26

Pack-The-House – Green Door Distilling Co.
7:00PM 1/26

The Great Leap – Farmers Alley Theatre
7:30pm 1/26-28, 2/2-4, 2/9-11; 2pm 1/29, 2/5, 2/12

Teeny-Tiny Winter Music Fest – The Clover Room
8:00PM 1/26-28

Jessica Ivey and Brandon Fitzpatrick – The Clover Room
8:00PM 1/26

Human Trafficking: Changing the Narrative – Fetzer Center
9:00AM 1/27

Semi-Annual Voss Media Board Game Swap Meet – Voss Media Board Game Cafe
12:00PM 1/27

Art Exhibition Wall: Gallery Opening – WMU, Office for Sustainability
12:00PM 1/27

Traditional Archery Expo – Kalamazoo County Expo Center
2pm 1/27, 9am 1/28-29

Vintage in the Zoo presents: Night Shop – Louie’s Trophy House
5:00PM 1/27

5th Annual Trailblazers of HOPE Tribute – Douglass Community Association
5:45PM 1/27

Music with Steve Kamerling – Brick + Brine
6:00PM 1/27

Free Movie Night! – Milwood United Methodist Church
6:00PM 1/27

Live Music with Lucas Perkins – this is a bookstore
6:30PM 1/27

See more upcoming events here.

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