On September 18th, I went to Bronson Park in Kalamazoo to cover the events happening at Tent City for WMU’s newspaper, the Western Herald.
At 7 p.m. that night, police were scheduled to boot the homeless out of the public park. Tent City had become home to many of Kalamazoo’s homeless population, consisting of people of color, women, and children. Having little resources and few options, these members of the Kalamazoo community were stressed, worried, and concerned for their well-being. Tent City had become a community all on its own.
We had arrived a little after six, watching as these people had picked up their belongings and packed up their tents. Bronson Park was filled with hundreds of people, consisting of the residents of Tent City, media outlets, and protesters. Children were running in circles around us, playing with other children they had become great friends with. In such a dark time for these people, seeing these children play despite their circumstances and living situations was heartwarming to say the least. Minutes after seven had rolled around, only a couple of police officers were spotted as they patrolled through the park speaking to demonstrators and residents. We left around eight, and the police arrived early the next morning, after most of the media outlets had left, to kick people out of Bronson Park with the threat of arrest. A few were arrested, including one of the only city officials who took a stand with the cause, Commissioner Shannon Sykes Nehring.
It was incredibly hard to view this experience from a journalistic standpoint. Upon entering the scene, I immediately surveyed the area and saw where I stood. I’m a woman who lives in an apartment and is lucky enough to have the privilege of attending college. I could see their struggle, but I could not feel it. Walking through the alleyways of these people’s homes broke my heart. Having to cover this event from an unbiased perspective for my job made me question the city of Kalamazoo’s concern for their community members’ safety and well-being. Where exactly does their moral compass lie? It’s time to stop thinking of these people as nothing. These people have skills, compassion, empathy, and morals. These people are a part of the heart of Kalamazoo. People are the foundation of a community. Why don’t we treat them as such? Asking why it had come to this may help us understand how it did. However, at this point, we need to ask how we can help. It certainly isn’t an overnight solution, but it’s a process. Tent City was merely a culmination of Kalamazoo’s neglect for its homeless population — had the city offered more resources and assistance for these people who just need a helping hand, maybe it wouldn’t have had to resort to this.
So, how can we help? Educate yourself. These people are suffering from homelessness because of unfortunate circumstances and they need a helping hand to get back on their feet. Research your community; find shelters, look at their list of needed supplies, and donate. Get involved with these organizations and offer to volunteer if you have the time.
A list of Kalamazoo organizations to help you get started: