Kalamazoo to shut down homeless camp by end of month

Kalamazoo County

The Hotop camp in Kalamazoo on July 30, 2021. (Ken Kolker/WOOD TV8)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Kalamazoo says it will clear a large homeless encampment in two weeks, citing health and safety concerns.

The camp at Ampersee Avenue near Hotop Avenue in the city’s Eastside area will be closed Sept. 29, the city said in a Wednesday release.

Officials said the site has been growing since the nearby Mills Street encampment was cleared in April due to flooding. Authorities say about 150 people are now living there.

They said there has been an uptick in crime and that people living at the camp, neighbors and business owners have concerns.

“While we recognize the complex systemic and personal factors that result in encampments, the current situation at the Ampersee encampment presents significant risk to the health, safety, and well-being of those living at the encampment, those providing onsite services and supports, and those living and working nearby,” Sara Jacobs, director of the Kalamazoo County Continuum of Care, said in a statement.

The Continuum of Care’s Outreach Services Group and Shelter Providers Group is working to get residents into shelters or other housing and link them up with mental and physical health and substance abuse programs.

The camp sits on soil contaminated with heavy metals. Owned by the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, it’s the site of a former fly ash dump site for a coal-fired power plant. Signs put up by the authority warn those living at the encampment not to touch the soil or grow edible plants in it.

The city said that once the camp is cleared, it will be cleaned up. Part of that process will be a Kalamazoo River cleanup coordinated by the state environmental agency.

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