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Feb. 12—Hope was the message that rang out at the Clarkston homeless camp Sunday afternoon.

Nick Hasselstrom, of Cross Tied Ministries, spoke to a crowd of people who have until 5 p.m. Monday to leave or be trespassed from the property they’ve been living at behind Walmart since November. The city of Clarkston informed the campers last week they had to leave after realizing the property the camp was on is privately owned. The city has made Foster Park available for camping, but only from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily.

Those in the homeless camp face uncertainty of where they will go next and what to do with their belongings.

“I want to focus on right now because right now is what we have,” Hasselstrom said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but the Lord does.”

Hasselstrom told the crowd that he understands the despair they are feeling because he too has been in a place of hopelessness. He spoke of his struggles with alcoholism for 20 years and suicidal thoughts, and he covered himself in dirt to represent the filth he was in. Later, he washed himself with water bottles to show how God made him clean.

Hasselstrom told those in the camp of how he loves them and has built relationships with them. He said other “pious” people are “snobbing down their noses” at those living in the camp, while they themselves live in comfortable homes. He said those people don’t understand the struggles of those in the camp and haven’t even been to the camp to see and meet the people for themselves.

When Hasselstrom told people he was going to camp to help on Super Bowl Sunday, they asked, “What about the Super Bowl?”

Hasselstrom said, “I would rather be here any day than at the Super Bowl.”

As Hasselstrom spoke, there were times people would applaud, cheer and shout “amen” to his words. When Hasselstrom spoke about his struggles, others in the camp shouted theirs: meth addiction, alcoholism and how long they had been sober.

“Jesus loves you right where you are at,” Hasselstrom said.

Other organizations were at the camp helping with the clean up, like Justina Foster and Dona Tarlton with the Street Level Ministry through the Salvation Army and Samantha Weston, of the Elves for the Homeless, and individuals like Cory James and Mary Egeland.

Egeland spoke to those at the camp and was also helping people move and clean up. She attends River City Church and met homeless people through the Bridge, a weekly dinner church. Egeland told those at the camp that they need to show those in the community that they can stand together.

James, who has been helping with the camp since it started, encouraged people to work hard to clean up the camp so that the city can’t say how messy they made the place.

“The city doesn’t care, we have to care,” James said.

He also warned against creating factions in the camp. He said that some are trying to hold on to their belongings and grabbing up items being left behind, which is creating some conflicts. James understands why people are holding on so tightly to what little they have and the pain they’re having to go through.

Weston said that one of the issues is that while the homeless can sleep at Foster Park there is no place for their belongings during the day. So many homeless are making decisions on what to keep and what to leave. Her advice is to keep what’s important and other items that they need will be donated.

Foster pointed out all the local businesses and those in the community who have helped the camp give them hope about the future.

“Let’s take that little bit of light and let’s move forward,” Foster said to those at the camp.

At the end of Hasselstrom’s message, Egeland had all those at the camp shout “hope,” which rang out loud and clear in the cold and windy afternoon.

Other than hope, the other theme of the message was for people outside the camp to see the homeless for who they are. Foster said that the homeless are being treated like a couch that’s left on the side of the road.

All those helping with the camp said there’s a lot of misconceptions about why people are homeless, which includes unemployment, mental illness, disability and substance abuse. However, despite what people may think, Foster said, those at the camp don’t want to be homeless.

Foster also said that people think the camp is unsafe. Some were concerned when told others she brought her daughter Amyriah to the camp, but she said it wasn’t people familiar with those at the camp.

“You are a family,” Foster told them. “You are my family.”

Foster also told a story of a little boy who was lost and couldn’t find his parents, and everyone in the camp went into “protection” mode to help the boy find his family.

“At the end of the day, they’re humans,” Weston said.

Most of the homeless at camp were frustrated by the city’s decision and want a place to go. Dylan “Montana” Evenson was angry and said that the city messed up in telling them to camp and live in the property behind Walmart, only to doubleback later.

“They’re making us pay for it,” he said.

Sonny Hill is also frustrated by the city’s decision and having to start back at the beginning. He wishes people who look down on the homeless could get a taste of what they’re going through so it would change their view on how life is.

Sonny is trying to get himself out of homelessness by finding a job. His girlfriend is also homeless. He also struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.

“I don’t want the handouts,” he said. “I want someone to pick me up.”

He said he just wants someone to give him a chance to have a job and home so he can show them he can do better and get clean.

“That’s what I need,” Sonny said. “That’s what I want.”

Sonny Hill isn’t sure what he’s going to do next when the camp is vacated.

“It’s survival,” he said. “You gotta do what you gotta do.”

Brewster may be contacted at or at (208) 848-2297.

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