SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — While the City of Springfield and a property owner fight over who’s responsible for cleaning up a space that used to be the go-to for homeless camps, a group of volunteers has stepped up to the plate to do it themselves.
The area is known as Tent City and it’s just behind Walmart on Kearney. Freeway Ministries and Crossway Baptist Church are calling on volunteers to help. About 150 volunteers are expected to show up but they’re looking for more.
The cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, May 19.
Several businesses have donated items from trash bags to bobcats to help in the cleanup.
“This is a huge project,” said Coby Cullins, who’s on the board for Freeway Ministries and is involved with Crossway Baptist.
Cullins heard about the Tent City Cleanup woes, so he started organizing to get the job done.
“We will begin the day with some basic safety training and some instructions on how to deal with some safety hazards,” he said. “We are also providing some tools so that not everybody has to pick it up with their hands. We will have some very large cardboard boxes on pallets and volunteers will fill those.”
Bobcats, tractors, and forklifts will take care of the larger items left behind in the woods.
“We will pick up some of the trails and those types of things,” he said.
Some of the volunteers helping clean up are formerly homeless individuals themselves.
“Not only are they no longer homeless, they’re no longer a drag on society and they’re actually giving back,” Cullins said.
About 40 people are coming from a Freeway Ministries program, which works to rehabilitate individuals.
“In order to live in our program you have to get back an hour and a half a week to the community,” said John Stroup, the director at Freeway Ministries. “It’s just really neat for ex-convicts and ex-homeless people to be able to give back to the city that they used to take from.”
About a decade ago, Stroup’s life was a little different.
“I was homeless. I was an addict,” he said.
He lived on the streets for eight years and ended up in prison for selling drugs, where he spent 18 months. After communicating with a ministry in Springfield while in prison, he ended up here.
“I started off in this city in a shelter with nothing but a prison Bible and hand me down clothes,” he said.
Now, as a leader in his community, he wants to give a purpose to those whose shoes he was once in.
“To let them know that being a Christian isn’t just sitting on a bench on Sunday, being a Christian is an everyday lifestyle,” Stroup said.
To them, this project is not about pointing fingers, but rather giving a hand.
“We are the neutral party. We are not the city and we are not the property owner.” Stroup said. “There’s a lot of people to talk about doing something and we want to be about doing something,”
The churches have permission from the property owner to do this project.
KOLR10 reached out to Rob Lurvey for a comment on this story but didn’t hear back before this story aired.
If you are interested in volunteering, you can find Freeway Ministries on Facebook.