Ann Arbor's 'Camp Take Notice' put on notice by State Police
When the tent community known as Camp Take Notice was evicted from its unauthorized camp site behind Arborland Mall Tuesday, campers already had a Plan B in mind: They'd move to the field behind the park-and-ride lot at Ann Arbor-Saline Road and I-94.
But Wednesday evening, Michigan State Police arrested Caleb Poirier, the leader of the camp, and threatened to evict the group if it remained at the site. Poirier was arrested for trespassing and vagrancy, State Police said today.
By 5 p.m., two dump trucks from the Michigan Department of Transportation were sent to the site, where they stood for about an hour as people packed up their belongings. They left after television reporters from WXYZ arrived; they didn't load a single item onto either truck.
The very name of the tent community - Camp Take Notice - bespeaks its social mission: Beyond providing a safe, supportive, drug- and alcohol-free community for the Ann Arbor-area homeless, Camp Take Notice intends to bring the issue of homelessness to the forefront of the community consciousness. The camp is in the process of obtaining nonprofit designation.
Danielle Mack, a supporter of the community, said being recognized as a nonprofit might help Camp Take Notice qualify for grant funds that would allow it to buy a camp site to call its own. You can't get evicted from your own property.
"There are over 900 homeless in Ann Arbor," Mack said, "but only 60 beds," referring to the Robert J. Delonis shelter on West Huron Street. "We've got to go somewhere."
That they choose fields in semi-visible locations is all part of the plan.
When news cameras arrived, campers made sure to accommodate them.
"Krystle, we need you!" Jesse Ault, Krystle Mullin's fiance called. Ault joked that Mullin, who is seven and a half months pregnant, is Camp Take Notice's perfect face of a campaign designed to put a spotlight on the problem of homelessness.
Sure enough, Mullin was part ofÂ Brad Edwards' video for Fox 2 Detroit.
The couple moved to Ann Arbor from Jackson after being evicted when their apartment complex went into foreclosure. Once their 90 days at the Delonis Center were up - Ault had been kicked out beforehand for temper issues, Mullin said - they joined the tent community behind Arborland Mall.
Brian Durrance, a Camp Take Notice supporter who hired Poirier years ago for his carpentry business and has been his friend since, noted a considerable number of trees had been cleared from the lot.
"Two days ago this entire field was filled with trees," he said. "They're chopping down trees, in Ann Arbor of all places. That's how bad they want [the community] gone."
Now that Plan B has fallen through, Camp Take Notice will move onto Plan C - partnerships with local churches. The goal, camp residents and supporters noted, is to stay on church grounds - outside - rotating to a new church quarterly.
The camp has reached out to several Ann Arbor-area churches, supporters say, and talks have gone particularly well with about four of them. As of last night, none had signed on to be the first to host the Camp Take Notice community.
As day gave to night, a number of the camp's supporters with vehicles made their way to the site to store community members' personal effects. They debated whether the community should remain on-site or move on to a different location, one that hadn't been visited by state troopers and MDOT dump trucks.
Supporters who planned to sleep in their homes made sure campers had their cell phone numbers at the ready in case the dump trucks returned.
In the end, the campers decided to stay, but said they'd only keep tents and other necessities on-site.
Said Hunter Roberts, "Caleb would kill us if we left after all the work he's done. He's the one who actually got sent to jail."Â
Roberts used to stay at the Arborland site before he and his girlfriend, Sarah Luther, secured an apartment. Both were on-site supporting the campers and loading their items onto vehicles.
Durrance said Camp Take Notice had planned to move some of the tent community to the Diag and establish a makeshift shanty-town once classes resume at the University of Michigan on Sept. 8. He admitted the group's eviction from two consecutive campgrounds would probably toss some cold water on those plans.
"Ann Arbor is apparently pretty hostile to our efforts,"Â Durrance said.
James David Dickson reports on human interest stories for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at JamesDickson@AnnArbor.com, or (734) 623-2532.