KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Kalamazoo and people who experience homelessness have struck a deal.
The protesters who set up camp in downtown’s Bronson Park will move to the grounds of an abandoned fire station on Cedar Street. In return, the city will continue to work with protesters to help with affordable housing and public assistance.
On a hot, sunny September afternoon in downtown Kalamazoo, people experiencing homelessness sound hopeful the city is listening to their needs.
“So, what they did is give us this property for 30 days as a show of good faith that they’ll work with us, so we decided to move out of Bronson Park as a whole to give them that, because they are working with us, they are showing by good faith to let us be on this property,” said Stuart Hamilton, who said he has been homeless for more than a year.
Hamilton and other people in this camp question the city’s decision to move it to Cedar Street.
“But the problem with being on the property is it’s overcrowded, we have no shade, you know, everybody is at everybody’s throat because it’s so hot,” said Hamilton.
The city formed a workgroup made up of city leaders and representatives from the homeless population. The group’s goal is to help people get into housing and reduce homelessness in Kalamazoo. Hamilton said he has attended three meetings with city leaders.
“I’m not asking for anything out of this,” he explained. “I don’t want anything out of this. I want people to be aware that we’re human and we’re being treated less than that.”
Despite the heat, those experiencing homelessness in Kalamazoo are determined to stay.
“We’re going to continue working with the city until it does work out,” Hamilton said. “I don’t care how long this takes. They’re going to accommodate us and they’re going to work on this with us or we’re going to protest every day that we can.”
Homelessness was discussed at the Kalamazoo City Commission’s business meeting Tuesday night. During the public comment period, some community members were angry, saying the recent action isn’t enough. They said the problem has been growing for years without the city addressing it.
“Six years ago, there was a 92 percent rise in homeless children in one year, and this f****** room, you were warned. Everyone of those homeless children go on you up there because you didn’t do anything. You did nothing for six years,” one community member said.
“Mayor Hopewell, where have you been?” another resident demanded. “Breaking ground on new supposed affordable housing complex while we’re sitting over here in the park protesting. Never once in the two to three weeks that we’ve been out here have you showed up. You are the elected leader of this city. Where have you been? Hiding in some dark corner? Not wanting to deal with the problem?”