Last week, following a routine police call in the area of West Meadows, police discovered a homeless camp on city-owned property that was marked no trespassing and no dumping. The area was also fenced off.
Two people were issued citations for trespassing and were asked to gather their items. Police gave them information on warming shelters and resources and the two left cooperatively, according to a statement from the City of Springfield.
"There was a lot of incorrect information spread about this issue," says City Manager Greg Burris in the statement. "The Springfield Police Department and Public Works responded appropriately to this situation. We have listened, however, to the feedback from citizens reacting to this particular issue, and have standardized how we will respond in the future."
The updated protocol when dealing with incidents similar to last week’s standardizes the amount of time trespassers will be given to vacate property to at least 24 hours.
The protocol also calls for agencies and advocates who provide services to the homeless to be contacted once an order to vacate has been given. This will give them an opportunity to work with the homeless campers in situations where they must be removed from either public property or private property, if requested by the landowner.
"Some homeless advocates have indicated they would have helped these two men move if they would have known of the need for them to move," says Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, in the statement. "This updated protocol allows for that to happen in the future and ensures that those needing to move will have at least 24 hours to do so. We have an amazing network of people working in our community to alleviate the suffering of the poor and homeless. We want to give them the opportunity to do the fine work they do."
If the Springfield Police Department feels an after-move clean-up will be necessary for a public site, they will notify the City of Springfield Public Works Department of the location of the camp and confirm a 24-hour notice has been issued to the campers, according to the statement.
The Public Works Department will schedule a clean-up of the location after the 24-hour notice has expired. This time gap will ensure homeless campers have sufficient time to move and retrieve any desired items.
Clean-up of private property will remain the responsibility of the property owner.
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