KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Officials with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, are asking community groups to help them to clean up the area's homeless camps by not passing out food and clothing to the camp's residents in hopes that those in need will instead go to established shelters for support.
The move comes after the city cleared out a homeless camp in Kessler Park on the city's Old Northeast side. City officials say that they gave camp residents 48 hours notice and an offer of alternative shelter and support. City officials say that there was evidence of drug manufacturing and scrap metal thefts in the park, and neighbors had complained that they did not feel safe in the park.
"The presence of these camps in Kessler Park is a deterrent to those who would like to enjoy the City's parks and amenities in the area," said KCPD Officer James Schriever in a statement. "While clearing the park, we discovered items used to manufacture methamphetamines, as well as items that indicated some of the individuals were possibly involved in the theft of scrap metals and catalytic converters. Trash was extensive throughout the area as well."
City officials say that informal support systems often encourage the formation of the camps, and can create an unsafe environment for both the camp residents and neighbors.
Dan Doty of the City Union Mission says that his group takes care of 400 people every night, but the need for help for the homeless is now greater than ever.
"There used to be times when the numbers of people would go down, but the thing we've noticed is a higher number but also a consistently higher number," said Doty. "There are no longer real periods of time when we have excess space, especially when it comes to children and families. There's never enough space to house all those who need housing, that's a critical issue."
City officials say that they will begin an educational process to end the support of transient camps by faith-based institutions and social service agencies.