New homeless tents coming, but not before a cold Christmas Eve

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Two weeks ago, Sue Roebuck lived in a small tent at a homeless camp, and it was relatively warm outside.

Sue Roebuck

Now, she’s in a bigger tent, but is facing the prospect of a lonely, cold Christmas Eve.

“It really doesn’t mean nothing,” she said of Christmas Eve. “Not no more, not right now. I’m sorry.”

The camp on the outskirts of downtown Kalamazoo is one of two bigger homeless encampments around the city, this one with more than two dozen tents. There are other small camps scattered about.

In all, about 150 people live in the camps.

Soon, Roebuck and others at the camp could be getting new tents, insulated and weatherproof, thanks to a gofundme page set up by the Kalamazoo Coalition for the Homeless.

So far, it has raised more than $11,000.

Chad Johnson runs the Kalamazoo Harm Reduction Project, which works closely with the homeless coalition and other agencies that help the homeless.

“It’s going to keep growing, it’s going to keep growing,” he said of the homeless population. “We’ve got a lot of folks that have been displaced, whether it’s COVID or other circumstances, you know. I can tell you there are a lot of people out here who are good people who are in an unfortunate situation.”

Christopher Parker, who says he lost his home, moved to this encampment two days ago after living under a bridge. He’s staying with a friend.

“It’s a little tent for a couple of people. We’re just doing what we’re doing to survive,” Parker said of staying out in the cold. “I can deal with it. I’m a damn soldier. I’m not military. I’m just a street soldier.”

He’d welcome the new tents.

“Hell yeah, I’d be interested in that,” he said.

Sue Roebuck gets help from her neighbor, Michelle.

“She’s really good at starting fires,” she said.

But that won’t keep her warm this Christmas Eve. Her propane heater doesn’t do enough against the chill. On Wednesday night, she slept in a friend’s car.

Sue Roebuck

Roebuck says she wants to leave the camp.

“Yeah, I do. I do. If I can get a job, I can have a life again,” she said. “It’s so hard down here, it’s so hard. Everything you do is so hard, just going to the bathroom is so hard. Especially with it being this cold.”

In the meantime, she’d welcome the new insulated tents.

“Oh yeah, oh yeah, I’d truly use it. In a heartbeat,” she said. “Insulated and holds heat, what more could you ask for in this situation?”

Roebuck said she appreciates everyone who has donated to help.

“I want to say thank you to everybody who has come down here and brought us anything,” she said. “Really appreciate it, I know I do. Kalamazoo, all the citizens here have been amazing.”

When a News 8 crew left Roebuck on Christmas Eve, standing by her fire, she had one wish:

“You guys have a Merry Christmas.”


GoFundMe set up by the Kalamazoo Coalition for the Homeless

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