LANSING, Mich. — The city of Lansing cleared out the Back 40, a homeless encampment behind Holy Cross Services on Larch Street, earlier this month.
The seven people living on the lot were offered housing. Only two declined.
Some advocates for the homeless questioned the city's decision to uproot the camp in the middle of a pandemic. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said in a statement that the city was trying to address "ongoing public health issues at the site."
“The people out here are basically trying to survive day to day,” said Bill Prindle, one of the five people still living in the lot.
Prindle has tried to seek out housing resources, but says the process was daunting.
“Looking at the list (of resources) over at the outreach is like banging the head into the wall because they can only do so much there because they’re trying to do ten things at once for ten other people at the same time," he said.
Jody Washington, the vice president of the non-profit HHP Inspirations, have been working with current and former residents of the camp. She said really helping them requires a multipronged approach.
“Even if you put them in an apartment, it’s not enough,” says . “We need real transitional housing where people can stay for a matter of months, get their health care needs met, get life coaching, get financial education, get job training, and learn how to not be in the streets.”
Washington says many of the people who live in Back 40 face mental illness, cognitive challenges or health issues that make navigating resources difficult for them.
Barry Holton understands Prindle’s frustrations. He used to live in the Back 40 himself.
“I don’t have that many people in my corner. I mean, my family just found me after being homeless. They didn’t know where to find me. They were worried about me,” he said.
With help from Washington and Advent Housing, Holt was able to get a bed at Holy Cross Services and is in the process of securing permanent housing.
Holton says resources like the ones he utilized need to be more accessible.
“Have the resources being brought to them instead of them trying to figure out where they’re at,” he said.
Washington, a former city council member, is working to do just that.
On Tuesday, the Lansing Human Relations and Community Services board passed a motion to create an ad hoc committee to address long-term solutions for handling homeless camps throughout the city.
The committee will include outside specialists who will advise on the group’s strategy. When the action plan is complete, the committee will present it to Schor.
“We have to make it easier for people to navigate these systems,” said Washington.
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