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Kalamazoo strikes deal with homeless protesters in park

Kalamazoo, MI

The city of Kalamazoo has struck a deal with a group of homeless protesters who were refusing to leave a downtown park.

The protesters camped in downtown Bronson Park for nearly two weeks to call attention to problems affecting the homeless in Kalamazoo. 

The city will allow homeless people to pitch their tents on the grounds of a closed fire station for the next 30 days, as a temporary response.  For longer-term solutions, the city will form a workgroup, including members of the homeless community.

One big problem, homeless residents say, is the city's ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to sleep overnight in a park.  The protesters say there aren't enough shelters in Kalamazoo, so the ordinance essentially criminalizes homelessness.  Ironically, it was a proposal to lessen the offense to a civil infraction that sparked the protest.

Homeless people and advocates say there's also a chronic shortage of permanent housing for low-income residents. 

Protesters also cite poor building conditions at the largest downtown shelter, Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.  And there are complaints that the religious mission does not welcome LGBTQ and non-Christian residents with the same open arms as others. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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