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Homeless scramble after Springfield camp closed

By JESS ROLLINS

The Springfield News-Leader

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — An advocate for the homeless said a north Springfield camp, long used by area homeless, is nearly empty.

Only two of the nearly two dozen former campers remain after a police crackdown late last week on trespassers on the privately owned wooded lot.

Volunteer Heidi Sanders worked through the weekend, finding shelter for the recently displaced.

“I don’t have any answers for them,” Sanders said.

She described what is left of the camp: the makeshift shower, the fireplace, trash and whatever personal items the campers could not carry. And the last of the campers: a young couple — the woman, pregnant.

The other 20 or so have scattered.

A couple of campers went to sleep in somebody’s yard. Some are looking for another campsite. A few are sleeping under bridges or in a parking garage. Some are taking their chances in an abandoned building, Sanders said.

“These are the options they are coming up with,” she said.

One man Sanders described as a veteran who uses a wheelchair was taken in by a fellow volunteer. Another former Marine received assistance from the Order of the Purple Heart in Springfield.

Nine who lived together at the camp have banded together, Sanders said.

A donor paid for hotel accommodations for the group for the next two weeks, Sanders said.

Officers warned camp members on Wednesday afternoon to clear out within 24 hours. When police returned Thursday evening, 18 people at the camp were arrested.

Several homeless said they had been staying at the camp for several months. Some estimated the camp had been used for as many as seven years.

Police Chief Paul Williams said the recent enforcement was initiated by police after nearby property owners complained of a recent spike in property crime.

Williams said police contacted the property owner, Lurvey Properties, and asked for permission to enforce the city’s trespassing ordinance.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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