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Kalamazoo's Ampersee homeless encampment vacated by police one week after initial deadline

Ampersee Encampment Closed
Posted at 5:42 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 19:06:46-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — One week after the initial city-set deadline, a homeless encampment in Kalamazoo has been officially cleared out.

It is the second encampment closed in the last six months.

Around 50 people still living at the Ampersee homeless encampment on Wednesday were told to leave by the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

"I woke up and I had ten minutes to get what I can out," said an Ampersee Encampment resident Samantha Martin.

Much of the encampment was left in disarray as there was rice still left cooking on the fire, garbage strewn throughout and even a chandelier still hanging in place inside a make-shift shack.

"I feel…it is almost overwhelming. How would they feel if we burnt their house down, we took their animals from them, their children from them, we destroyed everything that they had, that they owned, just tore everything down, put them on the streets? No, that is not an option for us," Martin said.

Residents left the area so quickly, some were escorted back in to grab belongings they initially left behind.

"Where do they want us to go? Do they want us to go live at city hall? Do they want us to go live in regular people’s yards and stuff?," said another resident from the Ampersee encampment Ian Valenzuela.

The City of Kalamazoo released this statement:

On Wednesday, the City of Kalamazoo began initiating the closure of the Ampersee houseless encampment. Teams from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety began by canvassing the camp, tent by tent, to provide one final notice that people need to leave the area.

The encampment has been secured and residents have complied and vacated the site. At this point, no arrests have been made related to the encampment closing.

On Sept. 15 signage was posted at the site indicating the City’s intent to close the camp on Sept. 29. However, the City paused closure efforts to allow the Continuum of Care (CoC) and service providers to conduct a final, comprehensive, and coordinated outreach effort.

On Monday, October 4, the CoC and several of their partner agencies participated in an outreach event to offer housing and shelter options, addiction services, medical services, and food. Agencies are still compiling data from the event, but here are preliminary details:

  • More than 10 people opted for shelter at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission or Oakland House.
  • 50 people received cell phones to remain connected to services.
  • Two families were provided transportation to be reunited with their families living outside of the area.

When the City announced the closure three weeks ago, the CoC estimated that there were more than 100 people at the encampment. At the conclusion of Monday’s event, the CoC estimates that about 50 people remained.

Alongside residents were concerned citizens trying to advocate and help them figure out what's next.

"The people don’t want to be living here either, but there is nowhere to go," said K Babcock, a Kalamazoo resident and concerned citizen. "When you set up your home somewhere, whatever condition it is in, that is your home. That is where you connect to people that is your safety net."

Ryan Bridges, the Public Information Officer for the city of Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, said the vehicles removed from the encampment will go to the impound lot to be retrieved.

Bridges said the other items still left in the encampment like tents, clothing and other items will be removed within the next few days.

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