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GR residents voice disapproval of city clearing out homeless encampment

Many voiced anger that the city's designated homeless outreach team was nowhere to be found to assist the homeless the day of the sweep.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids recieved 384 communications regarding the removal of a homeless encampment at Heartside Park. Several of those concerned citizens called into the city commission meeting Tuesday night.

"You cannot just sweep them under the rug like they are nothing. They are human beings," said one caller.

Many voiced anger that the city's designated homeless outreach team was nowhere to be found to assist the homeless the day of the sweep.

"It's their job to be involved with operations like this," said a caller. "And the city needs to reevaluate its relationship with the unhoused people in our city."

Others called out the short notice given to the people living at Heartside. They were notified on Dec. 19 and forced out on Dec. 21.

"Giving people with less resources than you and I a tenth of the time to find adequate housing," said a caller. "How cowardly and convenient of you to drop this on them and run."

The commissioners addressed the concerns at the end of the meeting, saying the decision to clear the park was tough but that it posed a safety and environmental risk to keep people there.

"I know that everybody around this virtual table has the utmost care and compassion for people experiencing homelessness in this city," remarked Commissioner Milinda Ysasi.

They also pointed out they do have plans for the future to help.

 "I do just want to highlight the approval of about 300 new affordable housing units that are hopefully going to be built in the next 18 to 24 months here in town," said Commissioner Kurt Reppart.

The commission voted to approve those housing units on Tuesday morning.

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