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City of Columbia plans to clean out homeless camps following complaints

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been change to correct where notice of a camp cleanup will be posted.


The city of Columbia says it's planning to clean out a homeless encampment after receiving complaints from both the Department of Natural Resources and residents. The encampments are typically full of trash, leading to concerns the trash is polluting the environment.

The two areas causing concern are located near the Columbia Mall, as well as near Highway 63 and the I-70 connecter. The city says it has already started the clean-up process for the location near the mall, but cannot begin the other yet.

City of Columbia Public Information Officer, Sydney Olsen said the city cannot begin the clean-up process until those living in the area are given at least 30 days to leave. Olsen also said the city must ensure those who own private property in the area are okay with it being cleaned.

Mikel Bynum is a resident of Columbia who works for a company that cleans out the areas frequently. He said he's noticed a significant increase in the amount of trash this year, though it's always been an issue in his eyes.

"It's just gotten out of control," Bynum said. "I mean it's just insane. There's so much trash in there."

Bynum also said he struggles with cleaning up the areas because of the feelings of sensitivity that surround issues like these.

"It's such a touchy situation and people hate me for cleaning these camps out. I mean I'm literally like a low-life for kicking these people out of their homes, so it's kind of made it tough," Bynum said.

CoMo Mobile aid, a group that helps provide assistance to unsheltered people in Columbia released a statement Wednesday evening about the encampments, and what people can do to help.

"It's our wish at CoMo Mobile Aid that you dedicate a reciprocal amount of time and energy reporting on lack of options for these individuals as they lose their camps in the woods. The housing choice voucher list is incredibly long. The only no barrier shelter, Room at the Inn, closes for the season in 2 weeks. And the city's Opportunity Campus will unfortunately not be available for at least another few years. We recognize that the trash and sanitation issues are a valid concern! We encourage leaders here in Columbia to seek solutions that are the most humane and the most immediate and the most practical. This could include basic trash dumpsters, hygiene stations, and other primitive camping services at the encampments until more opportunities are available for these individuals," a volunteer for the group, Stephanie Yoakum said.

According to Olsen, the plan to begin cleaning out the second camp, will be posted at the site sometime this month.

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Nia Hinson


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