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Housing advocates criticize City of Lansing for Kringle Holiday Market

The Kringle Holiday Market will be open in Reutter Park in downtown Lansing through Dec. 17.
Kevin Lavery
The Kringle Holiday Market will be open in Reutter Park in downtown Lansing through Dec. 17.

The city of Lansing is facing backlash from advocates for people experiencing homelessness after opening a holiday market at a park where unhoused people commonly gather.

The Kringle Holiday Market opened in Reutter Park last week. The pop-up shopping area features several heated sheds for businesses to sell food and trinkets, as well as an ice rink.

But community advocacy groups said it’s uninviting for the city to create shelters guarded by security at one of the parks most used by people experiencing homelessness.

Mike Karl, founder of the organizations Homeless Angels and Cardboard Prophets, said the market was placed in the city park most used by the unhoused. He said the market is a fun idea, but that it was "in bad taste" to put heated sheds in front of unsheltered residents who couldn’t use them.

“It does put some egg on the face of the homeless because they cannot get into these shelters or they may be living outside and shelters are full,” Karl said.

Brett Kaschinske is Lansing’s director of parks and recreation. He said the city had been planning since 2019 to find ways to bring activity to Reutter Park.

He said the city worked with Downtown Lansing Inc. to put together the pop-up market to support businesses downtown.

“It certainly wasn't done in any way to heap further insult on somebody who is in that situation," Kaschinske said. "This was something to bring all people together in the parks.”

Kaschinske said the city met with advocates on Tuesday to discuss including them in future plans for the market. He said the city wants the park to be open to all people.

Karl, who went to the meeting, said the city should provide housing programs and repurpose vacant buildings and resources for the unhoused.

He said he wanted the market to be more inclusive of unsheltered residents. He suggested offering vouchers and inviting them to the heaters.

"we need to walk over and talk to them as people and bring them over to our table so that we all can eat, and we can all be warm, and we can all live together in harmony," Karl said.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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