A local homeless advocate says she’s hopeful people living in makeshift camp sites that received notice Thursday (2/4) they’ll need to move will receive long-term help.
After property owners complained, police and local homeless advocates visited the three camps Thursday and let those living there know that they had 48 hours to leave.
Michelle Garand is deputy director of affordable housing and homeless prevention at the Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
“I think that the individuals that we spoke with were open to moving their camps and getting inside. It’s been very cold the last few nights especially and really looking at a safety and well-being issue and really just trying to issue some immediate help to the individuals who were out there,” she said.
She said they were able to talk with nine or ten people when they went to serve notice, and five of those plan to seek help with housing.
“One gentleman needed some medical attention, so he was on his way to do that, and we’re going to help him with some more long-term housing,” she said.
Notices were left at vacant tents, and Garand said they plan to go back out over the next several days to make sure everyone knows they need to vacate and that services are available if they want help.
According to the City of Springfield, officers and coordinators will make a final visit this week to ensure all campers have vacated the properties. If they have not at that point, "they will be either cited, or they will be departing immediately." A news release states that the railroad property owners of the campsite near Fort and College are in the process of having equipment on site this week to start debris removal.
Garand said Springfield is doing everything it can to create new opportunities to help the homeless.
“You know, as a community I think what we try to do is create opportunities to have some flexible funding to be able to address individuals where they are. So, whether it’s as simple as ‘I need an i.d. If I can get an i.d. I can get a job.’ You know, that’s an $11 fix, and someone can be stabilized within 30 days,” she said.
But she said, while they’re working hard to address the issue, the demand for services is still higher than the available resources.
According to the city, SPD began working directly with One Door in 2014 after the City of Springfield created a protocol for moving homeless camps that officials believe is the “most humane” way to address the issue of homeless individuals living on private property against the owners’ wishes.
The protocol specifically calls for agencies and advocates who provide services to the homeless to be contacted once an order to vacate has been given. This gives them an opportunity to work with the homeless individuals in situations where they must be removed from either public property or private property (if the landowner makes a request).
The protocol also allows that those needing to move will have at least 24 hours to do so.
If the Springfield Police Department feels an after-move clean-up will be necessary for a public site, they will notify the City of Springfield Public Works Department of the location of the camp and confirm that a minimum of a 24-hour notice has been issued to the campers. The Public Works Department will schedule a clean-up of the location after the 24-hour notice has expired. According to the city, "this time gap will ensure homeless individuals have sufficient time to move and/or retrieve any desired items."
Any such clean-up of private property will remain the responsibility of the property owner.
According to Springfield’s 2013 point-in-time homeless count data, on any given night in Springfield, 711 people are homeless. That number includes 350 single adults, 50 veterans, 425 families and 163 children.
“Together with the rising poverty rate, this challenge is one the most difficult issues we are facing as a community,” said City Manager Greg Burris.