City of Columbia wraps up its part of homeless camp cleanup near mall
COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The city of Columbia finished cleaning up a homeless encampment near the Columbia Mall on Thursday morning.
This comes after the city received complaints from both residents in the area. The Department of Natural Resources has raised concerns with pollution in connection with another large camp near the Interstate 70 and Highway 63 connector.
Spokeswoman Sydney Olsen said that the city has finished its efforts in cleaning up the camp near the mall, but she is unsure of whether or not the area is completely clean now. She added that the private property owners of that area may still have more work to do.
It is expected that work for a second location near the connector could begin after those living in the camps are given a 30-day notice. The clean-up is being conducted after the DNR sent a warning to the city, saying it found a pile-up of trash in the Hinkson Creek, which is near where the camp is located.
Olsen says the city is providing those who currently reside in the area that is in the works to be cleaned with alternative living options.
"So obviously we are not in a position to force anyone to take shelter in one of the many shelters in our community, but we do want to get in contact with them and let them know what resources are available," Olsen said.
She also added that the city has partnered with the LLC, "For a Chance" in an attempt to provide homeless people with options. This is in addition to posting signs around the area stating when and why the people are being asked to leave.
"Would you like us to get you in contact with resources and I can help you do that, what do you need? and so we work with both our staff to make contact with them person to person, face to face and with organization as well as posting those signs," Olsen said.
CoMo Mobile Aid, a group that advocates for homeless people, said the camps exist at least in part because of a lack of resources.
"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," the organization said in a statement.
The group has asked that the city provide pop-up shelters or trailers with managed services that homeless people can camp at instead. This is because the group has concerns that homeless people will have no where to go after the camps are cleaned.
It has also proposed that the city provide dumpsters, trash services, water and hygiene stations to the wooded areas where the camps are, until better housing options become available. It also added that housing vouchers are not valid because very few landlords accept them in the area.