North Camp homeless find more permanent home

Photos of North Camp (June 07, 2014)

WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) – The shanty town is hard to see through the gates and trees, but behind the old General Motors plant on Alpine Avenue in Walker, the sound of heavy equipment was unmistakable Saturday.

Crews worked throughout the morning to tear down the homeless North Camp to make way for a railroad expansion project. A Walker police unit was posted down the road, just in case there were problems.walker police 060714

A month ago, the 12 residents who used to live there were told what was coming, according to railroad officials. Everyone vacated the site.

So the question is: Where are they now?

Officials with the Salvation Army are working hand-in-hand with Community Rebuilders, an organization that helps the homeless find permanent housing.

So far, nine North Camp residents have taken advantage of the program. One of those already has an apartment and several more will move in to housing next week.

“Our experience is that they’re very interested in housing,” said Betty Zylstra, who works for the Salvation Army. “Clearly, they have to go through some transition as this is a major change in their lives, but they’re interested in housing.”

The former North Campers will get income assistance while they look for work and relearn a different set of life skills, like paying rent.

“They have survived by being strong and resourceful and sharing with each other, so it’s been a real pleasure to get to know them,” said Vera Beech with Community Rebuilders.

However, one notable North Camp resident has chosen to make his own way. A man called Cookie had one of the more elaborate shelters at North Camp. He moved out with the rest, but relocated to another location on railroad property. He had to be asked to leave again.

northcamp deadline 060714Community Rebuilders say Cookie is welcome to its services if he ever changes his mind.

Norfolk Southern Corporation out of Chicago owns the old North Camp property and leases it to the Grand Elk Railroad. Both companies are working with social services in the homeless transition.

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