Questions about homelessness in the City of Kalamazoo dominated a commission meeting on Tuesday. The discussion came after the city recently evicted homeless campers from Bronson Park.
Kalamazoo has allowed people to set up tents on a Cedar Street property, and City Manager Jim Ritsema says a committee is working on longer-term solutions. But on Tuesday, some residents said the concrete surface and lack of shade make the Cedar Street property unsuitable for camping.
In pointed remarks late in the meeting, Commissioner Shannon Sykes Nehring suggested that other board members and the city administration were not sincere about solving homelessness. Sykes said that if the board didn’t find a “safe” shelter by the end of the meeting, she would join the campers.
“We are going to pick the safest, most comfortable place to stay. And baby girl, when you come with handcuffs, make sure you take me first,” she said, to cheers from the audience.
Other board members expressed greater confidence in the city’s efforts.
A number of people who attended the meeting also criticized the city’s approach. They suggested that the community and the city government would like to forget the homeless.
Faith Vlietstra told commissioners that she is experiencing homelessness.
“We end up thinking that everything’s going to be okay because we have officials like you who give us that false hope. Who tell us that ‘Yeah, we’re going to help you, by moving you out of the public eye because we are disgraced by you,’” she said.