GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Weeks after the city of Grand Rapids pushed the homeless community out of Heartside Park, a group known as Justice for Black Lives is pressuring the city to open it back up.
“Some of these shelters aren’t the best option”, said Aly Bates, founder of Justice for Black Lives. “They don’t have space to keep their things or there’s bed bugs.”
“It would cater to them in a sense that it would be like a normal campground where there’s separation between campsites,” Bates said.
So far, the organization has collected more than 1,100 signatures in just over a week. Their goal is to get 4,000.
Grand Rapids City Commissioner Milinda Ysasi says they’re aware of the problem and looking for answers.
“Had a lot of calls, a lot of concerns,” Ysasi said. “I think the solution to ending homelessness is housing.”
Bates thinks the city doesn’t want to fix the problem.
“I personally feel like the city commission will come up with excuses as to why this can’t happen, which I feel like the city doesn’t want,” Bates said. “They’re worried about optics and what they’ll look like.
Ysasi says winter weather is a factor in the city’s decision to move the homeless out of Heartside.
“We saw someone experiencing homelessness in the Lansing area died at an encampment,” Ysasi said. “That to me is always a concern.”
The city commissioner adds she’d like to talk about the matter with the group directly.
“I always say where’s the communication between the idea and the vote?” Ysasi said. At this point, don’t know much about what they’re proposing.”
Bates hopes to have 4,000 signatures within a month. She then plans on presenting the petition to the city.
The petition to turn Heartside park into an urban campsite can be found online.