Decade-Old Homeless Camps To Be Torn Down

WALKER, Mich. (June 5, 2014)– Homeless camps that are set up along the railroad tracks in Walker will soon be torn down.

Nearly a dozen people will be placed into temporary housing until the city can help them find a more permanent home.

The property owner is leasing the area to another railroad that plans to expand.

Shannon Bass has been on her own since the age of 16. For the past 34 years she’s remained homeless.

“It takes a long, hard road to get where I’m at,” Bass said.

Two years ago Bass made a family here in West Michigan at the camp.

The area is located about 500 feet North of Ann Street.

Jesica Vail, with the Coalition To End Homelessness, said they’re working on finding housing for Bass and the people who are now forced to leave.

“As soon as we can start talking about what kind of permanent housing is available; people prefer housing,” Vail said.  “Nobody really chooses homelessness once they have that choice.”

But, it’s a tough move for Bass. Already placed in a temporary home, she was brought to tears when thinking back about her time spent along the tracks. She talked about falling in love. She even remembered the night she spent taking care of her boyfriend who was badly injured.

“I had him sitting there at the camp right in front of the stove and he was so cold,” Bass said. “Got real emotional ’cause the next day he died.”

The coalition released a point in time study that shows 793 people in Kent County are homeless. That’s up eight percent since last year.

Bass said the thing she’ll miss most is caring for the people who became her family. She plans to fill that void by becoming a peer counselor for people who live on the streets.

“It hurts, but I am going to be visiting the tracks and I walk down the tracks quite often…just remember the good times.”

It’s not clear how long people will have to remove their belongings from the camps.

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