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Columbia spent more than $8,000 clearing homeless camps in 2023


The City of Columbia spent $8,066.08 on clearing homeless camps in 2023, according to records ABC New 17 acquired through a Sunshine request.

Columbia cleared two homeless camps in 2023. In March, the city cleaned out a camp near the Columbia Mall and cleared out another near the Interstate 70-Highway 63 connector in April. In December, the city spent another day clearing the camp at the connector.

The largest expense was equipment rental. The city rented three pieces of heavy machinery from H&E Equipment Services for $6,711 for a four week period.

The next largest expense was food. The city ordered catering from Panera for 60 people for $602.03 on Dec. 18. There were also smaller purchases of snack foods from Menards and Sam's Club.

In addition, the city paid for more than 20 tons of material to be dropped off at the landfill and bought cleaning and safety equipment from from Buchheit and Ace Hardware.

Looking at Columbia's adopted Fiscal Year 2024 Budget, the city anticipates revenue of more than $506 million.

A look through the city's budget reveals that $8,000 is far less than the city allocates for any department budgets. The most an extra $8,000 would do for the city is pay the utilities bill for one of it's department office buildings.

Columbia spokesperson Sydney Olsen told ABC 17 News in a statement that the city worked to keep the cost of clearing the camps as low as possible by using volunteers and equipment the city already owns. However, the city did accumulate expenses for meals and equipment rentals.

The clearing of the homeless camps was sparked by complaints. Columbia received complaints from nearby residents and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources forwarded a complaint to the city. The DNR had raised concerns about pollution in Hinkson Creek believed to be caused by trash pileups in from a homeless encampment.

"While it is necessary for us to minimize environmental and health hazards, and to ensure City land is being utilized for its intended purpose, our primary goal is to assist our residents experiencing homelessness in getting connected with shelter and other resources available to them which can help them find and maintain permanent housing in order to provide them with the quality of life they deserve," Olsen said.

Olsen said the city is working to ensure there are beds and shelters for those experiencing homeless by allocating funds to develop transitional and affordable housing.

"Providing these resources will ensure that we are resolving the issue and not maintaining it," Olsen said.

One of the resources that receives city assistance is Room at the Inn, an overnight shelter. Executive Director John Trapp said Room at the Inn has been getting upwards of 70 guests a night this year. After the clearing of the camp last month, Trapp saw only a slight increase in overnight guests.

"A lot of people choose not to come into the shelter for various reasons," Trapp said. "Some of them have dogs. We don't accept dogs. Some of them have anxiety. Where being in close quarters with a lot of people more than they can handle."

Resources available for those who may experience homelessness:

City of Columbia: 

Love Columbia: 

1209 E Walnut St.
Columbia, MO 65201

Room at the Inn: 

1509 Ashley Street
Columbia, MO 65201

Harbor House:

602 N Ann St.
Columbia, MO 65201
(573) 442-1984

CoMo Mobile Aid Collective:

Article Topic Follows: ABC 17 News Investigates

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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