Right after the Springfield City Council cracked down on panhandling, two homeless men were kicked out of their camp and watched while its remains were torn down. The move raised questions about who gave the order and how the situation was handled. The good news is the two men now have a roof over their heads, but the situation concerns one city council member.
John and Jerry carried all their belongings out of their homeless camp as police and city crews watched. Springfield Public Works says they gave the men a few hours of notice to move their things from the spot where they'd camped since September. As of Wednesday, they're safe and warm at CrossWalk of Hope in Republic.
“They came out here, and they said, 'Dennis, this place is so peaceful. Can we stay here/' and I said, 'Yes you can, and we'll help you find a job,'” said Dennis Coad, who started Cross Walk of Hope near Republic.
It's that compassion that some wish they would have seen more of as the city tore down the men's camp.
“I'm just really concerned (A), about the timing, that in the coldest weather we've had so far this winter, people are being rousted out of their shelters, and, secondly, that no provision seems to be made for them to go into a definite place," said City Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky.
Springfield Police now say it was an officer last week who spotted the camp on posted city property, but was unable to find the occupants at the time.
“It's city property, it's posted 'No trespassing, no dumping,' so they had to leave. And they were given plenty of time to do so,” said Springfield Police Major Kirk Manlove.
Police say most of their interactions with homeless are positive.
“Officers oftentimes give them rides to hospitals, give them rides to shelters,” Manlove said.
Rushefsky is also concerned that the incident comes so soon after the council passed new ordinances relating to panhandling and feeding the homeless.
“Because it creates a picture -- whether it's true or false, I don't know at this point -- but a very troubling picture that our response to homelessness is going to be to try to push them out of Springfield rather than trying to deal with the underlying problems,” Rushefsky said.
Homeless people in another area nearby also packed up Tuesday after police promised they would be contacting the owner of the property where they have camped.
People like Coad are doing what they can, and dream of giving all the homeless help and hope.
“The only way we can get hope back to people is to show love. Love can conquer anything," said Coad.
Coad and Rushefsky both brought up the idea of finding an approved piece of land for homeless people in the community to camp where they would be provided the basic amenities, with some rules and security measures. Coad says he’d be willing to run it. Rushefsky says the Springfield community needs to at least start talking about solutions to homelessness.