[Hpn] Police "shelter raid" analysis: Displace the poor to Develop downtown? (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Thu, 15 Feb 2001 22:54:55 -0800 (PST)

Do police "sweep" homeless people from *your* Downtown Business District?
If so, why and at whose urging?  Does the "entire community" benefit?

More QUESTIONS & LINKS to related articles appear at the end of of this post.

FWD  WSWS : News & Analysis : North America : MI USA : 30 January 2001


     By Larry Roberts

On January 23, police in Pontiac, Michigan carried out a pre-dawn raid on a
homeless shelter. Police arrested 32 people with outstanding misdemeanor
warrants at the Grace Center of Hope shelter, formerly known as the Pontiac
Rescue Mission. The shelter is located in the heart of the city's downtown

Once the home of one of General Motors' most successful and profitable
divisions, after two decades of plant closings and mass layoffs Pontiac has
become synonymous with poverty and decay. City officials have made an
attempt to revitalize the downtown area, but so far development has been
limited to a few art galleries, restaurants and entertainment
establishments within a few blocks. The Grace Center of Hope shelter is
located within view of this area.

In an ongoing attempt to smear the center as disreputable, Pontiac Chief of
Police Larry Miracle and Mayor Walter Moore, a Democrat, launched the early
morning raid January 23 based on the spurious claim that the shelter was
harboring a rapist, drug dealers and felons, none of whom were found. "It's
harassment," said mission director Reverend Kent Clark. "We have been
attempting to put mothers and daughters in a church building a couple of
blocks away. We purchased the building but the [Pontiac] Planning and
Zoning Board has turned us down. Just recently, in December, they turned us
down for the third time."

The city's Planning and Zoning department, of which the mayor is a member,
has opposed the expansion because it would be "injurious to business." The
mayor and city officials have charged the mission and other charities in
the downtown area with establishing "half-way houses and three-quarter
houses" in the downtown area, cutting across their plans to weed out the
poor and attract businesses.

On January 23 at 5:04 a.m. the 150 residents sleeping in the center,
including children, were forced out of bed and told to line up. The police
checked their names and Social Security numbers against a list provided a
week earlier by the center. Thirty-two people were arrested on outstanding
warrants, all of them misdemeanors, except one felony charge against a man
wanted for stealing a car in nearby Ann Arbor. The other charges ranged
from unpaid traffic tickets to disorderly conduct.

The charges were too minor to prompt the Detroit Police Department to drive
the 20 miles to pick up the supposed suspects. Instead, the Pontiac police
loaded the shelter residents into two vans and drove them to Detroit's
downtown police headquarters to be booked.

Rev. Clark stated that 15 residents were loaded into a paddy wagon,
handcuffed and hooked together, but were not charged or read their rights.
When they arrived in Detroit, Clark said, the shelter residents were left
at the station.

Craig Rubin, one of those arrested, said the Detroit police did not want
them. "We never even made it inside the Detroit police station," said
Rubin. "They let us out in the middle of [the street]." Rubin said that he
and the others walked several blocks to the courthouse to set dates for
their outstanding tickets.

Another shelter resident, Renada Tate, 39, who is recovering from drug
addiction, said she was forced to leave her children behind when she was
taken away from the shelter. Renada said the Pontiac police dropped them
off in downtown Detroit but they had no money to get back to Pontiac. A bus
driver traveling to Pontiac from Detroit was compassionate enough to give
all of them rides back to the shelter.

Typical of some of the "crimes" committed by shelter residents was the case
of Craig Fox, a recovering drug abuser who has been at the center for six
months. Fox was taken to Ann Arbor on the outstanding charge of catching an
undersized fish, a 12-inch walleye, when the regulations stipulate they
must be at least 15 inches long.

The Grace Center of Hope houses the homeless on a 30-day emergency basis,
but it also has a year-long drug rehabilitation center that it has wanted
to expand to house women. Downtown Pontiac is also the home of two other
shelters-HAVEN, a domestic violence shelter primarily for women, and
Lighthouse of Oakland County, a nonprofit agency that provides transitional
housing and emergency services for low-income city residents.

Shelter director Kent Clark said there was no reason to raid the center. He
said the shelter has a policy of fully cooperating with the police and is
not a haven for criminals. Clark and his daughter and assistant, Shannon
Grace Clark, said that although the police had no warrant, they let them in
because they have a policy of cooperating with the police.

In an attempt to justify the raid, police claimed they had information a
rapist was at the center and that an undercover officer had made drug
purchases at the facility within the past month. Clark and his daughter
insisted that drug sales were not taking place at the center. Shannon Clark
said, "The people here are padded down the moment they walk through those
doors. There are random drug tests. There's no way they could get any drugs
in here."

"I am in a state of shock," continued Rev. Clark. "I asked, why would you
do this? The doors are open. The police come through here all of the time,
at their leisure. We give them all kinds of information about the people
who live here. You don't have to raid at 5 a.m."

Rev. Clark said they are in the process of taking their case to the City
Council, but if the council refuses to hear it they are prepared to go to

The raid on the shelter is characteristic of the impact the decline in the
auto industry has had auto-dominated cities such as Pontiac. Like many
industrial cities after the Second World War when the US dominated
industrial production, especially in automobiles, the area was once vibrant
and prosperous. General Motors' Pontiac car division was headquartered
here, but is now only a skeleton of what it once was. During the past 15
years GM has axed almost 13,000 jobs in Pontiac, closing three of the five
plants it had operated.

The poverty rate in the city is staggering. Out of a population of 71,174,
more than 4 of 10, or 43 percent of residents live below the government's
official poverty line of $17,400 for a family of four. In the downtown area
conditions are even worse, with more than 64 percent living below poverty
level. Rev. Clark said that demands on his shelter have steadily increased
in recent years. In 1998 the center served 90,000 meals and by 2000 they
were serving 106,786 meals.

SOURCE: World Socialist Web Site http://www.wsws.org/


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
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FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Feb 06, 2001
Shelter residents sue city over raid
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ Occupants of a Pontiac homeless shelter
are suing the city and its police department for depriving
them of their constitutional rights during a raid last month.
The suit accuses Pontiac Police of using excessive force and
arresting people who had committed no crime when the Grace
Centers of Hope was raided Jan. 23. It also accuses an officer of
handcuffing a 6-year-old.

FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Feb 01, 2001
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ More than a week after police arrests at
the Grace Centers of Hope, city fire and building officials made a
surprise inspection there.
The Rev. Kent Clark, chief executive officer of the nonprofit
organization, questioned the timing of Wednesday's inspection and
called it continued ``harassment.''

FWD  Detroit Free Press - January 31, 2001
"Staff, residents and supporters of the Grace Centers of Hope
march to the Pontiac Police Department on Tuesday to protest
a raid on the shelter last week."

FWD  Detroit Free Press - January 30, 2001

Police raid on Pontiac mission has pastor fuming
Clergyman says it's politics; cops say drugs are a problem
Daniel Mears / The Detroit News

FWD  Detroit Free Press - Tuesday, January 23, 2001
Thirty-two arrests and a firestorm of finger-pointing followed a pre-dawn
raid on a Pontiac homeless shelter Tuesday....
Using a list of names and social security numbers provided by the shelter
a week ago, police identified about 50 people with 57 outstanding criminal
warrants living at the Huron Street facility, said Police Chief Larry


1) Should nonprofits help police to arrest homeless people charged with

2) Should shelters require homeless people to give IDs & Social Security
numbers as a condition of service?

3) When homeless people give personal information to human service
providers, are "providers' promises" sufficient to "protect our rights" to
confidentiality?  Please cite examples.

4) Have Pontiac officials targeted Grace Center for "harassment", as the
mission's director claims?  What evidence impels your conclusion?

5) Do police "sweep" homeless people from *your* Downtown Business District?
If so, why and at whose urging?  Does the "entire community" benefit?

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