(Kalamazoo)-Michigan’s blustery winds and bone chilling temperatures is a reality that those without shelter face on a daily basis. Some of those people that are homeless are children. This past December, an undocumented immigrant new to Kalamazoo was turned away from shelter that had reached it’s capacity. This man died unnamed and unreported. Unfortunately, individuals and more families with children are falling under what is consider poverty levels in Kalamazoo County.
Occupy Kalamazoo stands in solidarity with National Gathering 2013 using the vigil to commemorate the passing of members of the human family by giving a moment of silence and individual sharing from participants involved with the vigil.
National Gathering 2013 and Occupy Kalamazoo are planning more activities around social injustices and the some of the unknown impacts it has on people and the community.
Today a candlelight vigil for the homeless will honor those who have passed away because of extreme exposure to Michigan winter weather or other underlying circumstances.
The vigil is organized by supporters of Occupy Kalamazoo and National Occupy Movement to raise awareness about the growing number of homeless people in Kalamazoo and around the country. These numbers includes families with school age children. The Occupy Movement will honor the passing of all those who have not been heard, whose basic human needs have not been met, and who have not found their own voices by devoting their second National Gathering to communication–“we will raise our individual, local, national and global voices”.
According to homeless statistics from most recent data, Housing Resources Inc., reports that in Michigan, 53 percent of the homeless population in Michigan consists of adults and children in families. 67 percent of the homeless families are headed by women,many of whom are young women with young children. Over 14,000, homeless children, infancy to 10 years old reside in Michigan. Children of families in transit, often face many obstacles that impair their academic progress.
This past December, undocumented and unaware, new and unknown to the area, a human being was turned away from shelter that had reached it’s capacity. This man died unnamed and unreported. His only mention other than some questions asked by staffe members at the shelter was a nameless obituary. National Gathering 2013 will use the vigil commemorate the passing of a member of our human family by naming the truth in their own voices, in their own way.
This event is open to the public. 6PM at Bronson Park,downtown Kalamazoo. 5PM Central, 4PM Mountain, 3PM Central.
Last week two people were arrested during the first night that Occupy Kalamazoo members and local homeless people camped out at “Compassion Park” the name they gave their encampment at Bronson Park.
One of the people arrested was Chris Wahmhoff, an organizer for Occupy Kalamazoo. Wahmhoff was arrested for allegedly violating a city ordinance that prohibits sleeping between the hours of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. in city parks and public places.
As most Americans and the rest of the nation remember today as the anniversary of the horrific tragedy that wounded our nation, a war of poverty, marginalization and homelessness is raging in Kalamazoo County, specifically, Kalamazoo, MI, known as the sixth meanest city in the country toward homeless people. According to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless released in July 2009.
The eve and into the morning anniversary of 9/11, Chris Wahmhoff is arrested a second time for civil disobedience, again for allegedly violating the city’s ordinance on sleeping in city parks and public places. A another local media outlet came out to interview Wahmoff, but as we know most news stories, especially taped interviews are at the mercy of the “digital blade” controlled by the producer. We only get to hear a “piece” of the interview, possibly leaving out information that could be important as an informed community member.
The numbers my have been few that were able to support Occupy Kalamazoo, there were thousands in Michigan and across the world, via Facebook and other social media outlets that should their solidarity to the Occupy Movement.
Chris has become a “disobedient hero” in my humble opinion because the threat of arrest does not weaken his spirit or motivation. As an observer and supporter of the Occupy Movement, there are many issues that need to be addressed and Chris has the passion and resilience to fight the fight for those that are not able to.
So the questions are, if we have organizations within the our community to provide shelter to those individuals that are homeless, where do the others go when the organizations reach capacity? The first encampment of Compassion Park, there were homeless couples and individuals in the park as well as a family that had children camped out in the park. So is Kalamazoo now the meanest city to children that are homeless. I can’t speak to what the circumstances of the family in the park with the children, but this is the night before the first day of school. We can either assume the family has no family and friends that could help in the short run, the shelters were full to capacity or the family did not seek shelter.
I only hope since they were not present at the second encampment at Bronson Park, that they were able to obtain housing. A friend of mine asked, “What is the point of the encampment when we should be focused on the election”. My response to that was, election time is ideal for bringing notice to these issues when citizens are more politically minded. Homeless people and or families have stories and deserve no less dignity than those of us with an official residence.
The Occupy Movement may have lost some of it momentum but is still going strong without the media spotlight. Chris Wahmhoff and Occupy supportors are the disobedient heroes who refuse to let the urgency of homelessness to became a mainstream media afterthought.
Supporters for Occupy Kalamazoo gathered at Bronson Park on September 3rd, with the intentions on “camping out” in the park to bring awareness to issues connected to homeless and marginalization of social economics, environmental hazards and other social issues. Bronson Park was renamed, Compassion Park by Occupy Kalamazoo supporters. In the wee hours of the morning police entered the encampment and arrested Chris Wahmhoff. Chris refused to obey a local ordinance that criminalizes sleeping in public between the hours of 9pm and 7am. According to the arresting officer, this a misdemeanor offense. There were other supporters as well as homeless individuals and families that were part of Occupy Kalamazoo. Although no one else was arrested, they were given citations. It may be sometime before Kalamazoo’s reputation for being the “6th meanest city in the nation” to the homeless to “The City of Compassion”.