In conjunction with our community partners, MISSION has been housing people since the Zero:2016 campaign began in January of 2015. So far, the community effort including the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, Office for Community and Economic Development, Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness, Shelter Association, Ann Arbor Housing Commission, MISSION, HAWC, Avalon Housing Support Team and others have permanently housed 42 veterans and 35 chronically homeless individuals. In fact, members of our board [MISSION] are now in permanent housing as a result of these efforts. We are grateful that Council has put skin in the game for support services and infrastructure repair. We are also grateful to our all of our community collaborators, including all the council members who came out for Count Day 2015 and who have supported our wider community's efforts with votes that deliver concrete resources to the cause of better housing and better social services. Please read the first two-month report in the slide show above for more information about our housing successes!
Council Member Briere gave a shout-out to us at council last night for the Maiden Lane bridge clean-up project we accomplished last weekend. Our team removed refuse from a camp site that was shut down this spring. This project was taken on as a result of Council Member Briere calling Brian Durrance to let him know that residents were asking about whether a cleanup is planned or not. After talking it over, for a day or so we came up with a plan to get this first site cleared. We are hatching a plan for another site that is closer to E. Medical Center Drive, in the near future.
The slide show above shows some pictures of our team in action. As Briere mentioned tonight during her "Communications from Council" remarks, we [MISSION] are happy to help out, but our resources are minimal. As an organization, not only do we have operating costs, but also, we have a mortgage and we pay property taxes to the city. We hope, in the future, to collaborate directly with the city to help remove refuse from abandoned and current camp sites alike. If containers we placed at strategic locations, for example, we could have our team[s] fill them up the night before pickup.
Let's please not forget that while we have been successful in housing many people, there are many more who are out there and who still need our support. We can and should continue to build a robust continuum-of-care that helps house as many people as we can, while reducing the harm to those relegated to living outside.
My heart aches with the loss of my dear friend, James Eric Hill. RIP Jimmy. What is remembered lives. And oh -- you will be remembered! You took the suffering and challenges in your life and used them to help others; a role model and father figure to so many, and a friend and confidant to so many more. Your constant support of and solidarity with the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society is an inspiration. Thank you for your friendship, and your support. More than a friend, you were family. My life is better for having known you. May the ancestors greet you with open arms and may those who mourn your passing this realm find some comfort in knowing with certainty that the world is a better place for your time in it. Presente!
Anyone who wishes to pay their respects can do so this Sunday June 28 from 3-7pm at Crosspoint Free Will Baptist Church 4015 Allen Rd. Allen Park, MI 48101. Funeral services will commence at 6pm. Here is more info
Please watch the new documentary about our community at Stone School Rd and beyond!
Thanks very much to Viviana for her passion and artistic talent! We are feeling so blessed to have this opportunity to share her work, a short film that introduces the viewer to M.I.S.S.I.O.N. and the work in which we are engaged in Ann Arbor and its neighbors:
I’m sitting down to write this and find myself distracted by the world outside our window. After two weeks away from Michigan, the world is full of new. Flowers are pushing up through the soil to be nourished by the spring rains and warm sunshine, returned birds chatter away … hope after a long and cold winter. It dawns on me that, no matter what we are called to celebrate, Passover, Easter or Spring Equinox, it really is about hope; freedom after such long captivity, forgiveness and the promise of new life - radical and hardnosed hope.
I realize this is why I do this work. This is what MISSION and the Mercy Houses mean to me - radical hope.
I think about the warming center MISSION ran this winter in partnership with faith communities and the Shelter Association. The day time warming center was conceived and run by the community for the community; a democratically self-governed space that helped 123 people stay safe, warm and dry on our busiest days and brought together homeless and homeful people in community such that, as more than one volunteer from the churches expressed, “I don’t know who is homeless and who is here to volunteer.” Hope.
I think about the friends who stayed nights on our couch detoxing, struggling to kick addiction as others from the homeless community offer the support of a warm blanket, cool drink of water, and most importantly a listening ear and supportive presence. I remember the words of one woman who recently celebrated 30 days of sobriety as she sat with us, sick as a dog, laughing. “I have never felt so awful, or been so happy.” Hope.
I think of our recent experience at Ann Arbor city council in support of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). A room packed full of supporters, 7 out of 8 public comment spots filled with speakers in favor of ADU’s and a recent MLive article letting us know our voices were heard: "In keeping with the council's priorities, the proposed general fund budget for the next fiscal year includes $25,000 to hire a consultant to help draft zoning changes that could result in allowing accessory dwelling units in single-family neighborhoods." Hope.
I think of a member of our community who, after years of bitter estrangement from his biological family, reconnected – inspired, he tells me, by the family we created here. Hope.
I think of another friend who spent the winter living at the shelter, helping us cook breakfast for the homeless community on Saturdays. While living in the shelter, she craved the simple ability to cook a meal with and for others. She is now in transitional housing and working. On a recent Saturday, she took a vacation day from work, to make Saturday breakfast for us on her birthday. When she returned to Mercy House after some weeks away, she almost cried, her memories of cooking for grateful and appreciative friends nearly overwhelming her. She had her best birthday in decades, lovingly cooking a beautiful meal for our homeless friends, helping create community.
I also think of our long term goals for the house and property on Stone School Road, a fully functioning house of hospitality, with a beautiful and eco-friendly tiny house community. Even before the dream is fully a reality, I am aware of the number of friends who visit the house to do laundry, take a shower, connect with community; who find hope in what is happening there.
And I think of you. Each of you. Your gifts of time, talent and treasure are literally what keep us going. You keep the lights on, the fridge stocked, the tents and sleeping bags available. You make it possible for 123 people to gather in a warming center to meet with agencies, support each other in friendship and eat healthy snacks while escaping below zero temperatures. You make it possible for our friends to make progress in their struggles against addiction, to reconnect with family, and to participate in a community that provides hope.
Hope is sustaining. Hope is power. Hope is needed. And you, with your contributions, provide hope. I am so very grateful.
As we look forward to the months ahead, we hope you will continue your support of MISSION with continued contributions. Winter was hard on the gear of those camping outside. That, combined with the seasonal closing of winter warming centers and rotational shelter, reminds me of the constant need for humanitarian aid items: tents, tarps, sleeping bags, rain gear etc. We also know that in 2015, the mortgage on Mercy House at Stone School will be due.
Will you donate this spring? Perhaps consider a donation in honor of mom for Mothers’ Day?
Whatever you can do, please know that I am grateful we are on this journey together. Grateful for your gifts of time, talent and treasure. Grateful for you.
Grateful and Hopeful.
With radical and hardnosed hope,
Sheri Wander, for the MISSION board
Please find enclosed my gift of: ____ $500; ____ $250; ____ $100: ____ $50; ____ $25
Checks can be made payable to MISSION and mailed to:
MISSION ℅ Vesta Smith Campbell
P.O. Box 8161, Ann Arbor, MI 48107
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Vesta Smith Campbell, MISSION Treasurer 734.761.6931 and email vscampbell at cleary dot edu.
STATEMENT RE: NON-INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
MISSION is an IRC 501(c)(3) nonprofit, accepting donations to provide direct humanitarian aid to houseless people. We do this in partnership and solidarity with houseless people. MISSION also owns property, at which it ultimately plans to obtain the permission needed to locate a tent and/or tiny house community of otherwise houseless people. In all of its work, MISSION seeks to empower and build community among houseless people and their housed allies.
As a nonprofit organization, MISSION does not engage in election recalls or any other political activities not allowed under the tax code. MISSION neither endorses nor opposes any political candidate or office holder. Although political activities or comments may have been incorrectly attributed to MISSION, MISSION is in no way involved with any such activities or comments.
Camp Misfit and MISSION activists intervene in Camp Eviction conducted by MDOT and the City of Ann Arbor
Article below slideshow written by Sheri Wander. All photos taken by Ryan Sample.
written by Sheri Wander
At about 10:00/10:30am Thursday July 10, I got a call from Tim Green. He had just gotten word that backhoes, MDOT personnel and the Ann Arbor Police were moving along the river behind the Gandy Dancer towards the bridges. People were being told they had get out or they would be arrested, leaving them no time to collect belongings. Folks were asking for our support. Tim and Ryan Sample were headed down on the bus. Chris McKeown, Tracy Williams and I headed down in Tracy's truck and arrived first.
By the time we got there the Ann Arbor police had already left. We quickly began gathering information: talking to campers and various MDOT workers. We learned that the city and MDOT were working in partnership to evict and contrary to what we had been told earlier campers were not safe from eviction even if well beyond the required 50 feet from the tracks and well hidden. We were told everything from the Gandy Dancer up to and including "the first 2 bridges" were being evicted and those along the tracks would be clear cut.
Chris went to spread the word to everyone still at or near their tents, and Tracy and I headed to get his truck from where it was parked to help salvage and transport as much as possible. Two MDOT workers told us each independently "You can't bring the truck over the tracks here, and I can not give you permission to bring it in where we bring ours in -- down off Lake Shore Drive just before it turns to the park." Appreciating the tip we were headed that way when Tim and Ryan arrived.
Talking to Mat and Danielle, campers we know well, we learned that they had been given 10 minutes to get out or get arrested. They attempted to negotiate for more time to pack up their stuff, but were only able to grab a small back pack and Mat's guitar before watching their home and most all their possessions bulldozed.
A quick consensus decision of those camping was to move as much stuff as possible to the meadow in Broadway Park - out of the backhoes’ path. This would allow us to salvage as much as possible. From there campers could decide what they wanted to do and what support they needed from us. Tim, Ryan, Tracy, Chris and myself helped folks pack up and carry their stuff, take down tents etc. Ryan also took photos documenting what happened.
All of us had also been sending email and text messages and posting things on facebook looking for more folks to help and to get the word out about what was happening. About an hour after we initially arrived Lindsay Conrad from First Presbyterian showed up. A frequent guest at the bridge camps she knows many of the folks there, and offered pastoral support as well as some possible storage.
About the same time she arrived MLive also appeared on the scene as did Brian Durrance, bringing with him council Member Sabra Briere. Bill Birdsall also came by to help. Campers and Misfit and MISSION supporters spent close to an hour talking to her. She listened and was resolute in the fact that there is nothing she can do. She continuously stated things like "there is no legal place for you to go" and "There are no options."
At some point in here one officer from the Ann Arbor police arrived just to be sure the loud voices weren't threatening ones. But he only stayed about 15 minutes.
After Sabra left we piled the vast majority of stuff into Tracy's truck and drove it and a group of campers out to a new site. Tim and Chris left a few minutes ahead of us with Brian and they met us at the new site with shovels, rakes, and other tools for clearing out spaces for tents. We helped folks clear out a bit at the new site.There was one individual, Tony, who chose not to come with us. He had another site in mind. Seth Best, Tony Galofre, and Lynn McLaughlin arrived shortly after we left and helped him do what he wanted.
Heading home we got a call from Fox 2 news Detroit so we turned around, rounded up those that had camped there and went to talk to the news.
Afterwards, we dropped off tents, and sleeping bags off to Mat, Danielle and another couple who had lost all their stuff when camps were destroyed.
There is more work to be done as we expect more action from MDOT and the City. Please stay tuned!
In the meantime, please join us on Tuesday July 15 at 7pm at St. Clare’s/ Temple Beth Emeth for an Ann Arbor Mayoral Forum on Homelessness and Housing. The address is 2309 Packard St, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104. We look forward to seeing you there.
We are also, of course, in need of tents, sleeping bags, blankets, and anything one might need for camping outside: water, batteries, flashlights, garbage bags
To coordinate donations please contact Tim Green at 734-985-1842 or firstname.lastname@example.org
written by Sheri Wander
This year's activity by The Presbyterian Cluster included MISSION-oriented service projects lasting for the duration of one week. The purpose of the Week of Service is to:
1. Accomplish concrete work: build a deck, paint the house at Stone School, and build a garden. The Cluster applied for grants to provide the materials and provided people power in the form of volunteers who would work alongside the MISSION community to carry out these projects.
2. Build relationships both among members of the involved Presbyterian churches and also between the churches and the MISSION community.
There between 8 and 20 volunteers from The Presbyterian Cluster on each day of the week and an average of 10 volunteers from MISSION.
News articles on the Week of Service may be found below:
I am strong.
I've been through a lot in my life and I'm still standing.
I have self-worth.
It took a lot of soul searching to finally see myself.
I am beautiful.
I dont need anyone to tell me, I know my glow.
I am not perfect,
Nobody's perfect. But I've seen my good and bad sides.
I am just myself.
I will never be alone, I will always be there for me.
by Cindy Polk
About two months ago, Camp Take Notice voted to attend Sunday in the Park with the Forgotten Workers. It takes place the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. The event is a loosely organized group of members of the Detroit IWW ["Wobblies"], UAW activists and other community members coming with hot food, sweet treats, clothes and other warm things.
Eight from our ranks joined the festivities on Sunday Feb 9 including Shaquanna, Spyder, Ryan, Christy, Mugger, Caleb, Denise, and Greg. We gave away 16 pounds of oranges and tangelos, a big box of cookies, a carton of donuts, 27 pairs of socks, a bunch of coats, scarves, gloves, and two big boxes of canned goods.
Afterwards, Ryan, Mugger, Christy and Greg went to Belle Isle and walked through the Scripps Conservatory. It was a great day! Everyone came back with a smile!
MISSION-MISFIT-TROLL-CTN Service day at Sunday in the Park with the Detroit Wobbly Kitchen: https://www.facebook.com/events/1383757391891040/?ref_newsfeed_story_regular
Here is a link to the Wobbly facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/532377240210503/?ref_newsfeed_story_regular
MISSIONA2 and CTN representative Seth Best interviews with NPR's, Dick Gordon. http://www.thestory.org/stories/2009-10/place-belong