Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., officials with the city’s Solid Waste Department and the Kansas City Missouri Police Department (KCPD) met at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Cambridge to clean out a transient camp that had grown exponentially underneath the US 24 Viaduct near the old Armco Steel Mill.
KCPD Officers Greg Smith and Pat Byrd notified the 10 or so residents living in a makeshift condominium-like structure under the bridge that they had roughly two hours to clean out any personal belongings before the city’s trucks and equipment came in to clean the area out.
“We have offered the residents social resources and Housing Services to those who are interested in upgrading to a more stable lifestyle,” East Patrol Community Interaction Officer (CIO) Greg Smith said. “We were here yesterday and the day before giving them notice.”
Kevin Sleyster owns a number of parcels in the Blue River corridor said its a never ending battle with transients and theft.
“I got a lot over here where I store trucks and equipment,” Sleyster said. “We drove everything in there but now these people have scabbed off everything from wiring harnesses to starters and motors so now everything will have to be towed out of there.”
The makeshift shelter spanned the entire breadth of the viaduct and was divided up into three bedrooms, complete with king and queen-sized mattresses. There was even a common area with couches and chairs.
In the treeline directly to the south, evidence of another large transient camp remains after it was eradicated earlier this year. Residents in that camp had taken to living in the school busses parked on the lot, often starting fires inside them to keep warm. According to Smith, they cost the bus company thousands of dollars in damages before the camp was removed.
“This isn’t the most organized one we’ve seen but its right up there,” said City Illegal Dumping Inspector Travis Silvers. “We’re going to be keeping an eye on things and keep it as clean as possible.”
In addition to the trash issues, the health and sanitary issue also comes to the forefront.
“We have to be real careful because we never know what might be in a plastic tub or an old paint bucket,” Silvers explained as he swatted flies swarming over an open roasting pan full of human waste. “All of this will have to be dealt with today but these people will just move to a new location, another bridge or wooded area and we’ll be back to do the same thing again with the same people, just in a different spot.”
The residents under this bridge were given a 48-hour notice to be cleaned out by today. Despite that warning, however, little or no preparation had been made to move personal belongings until this morning.
“Anything that remains will go to the landfill,” Silvers told residents.
Of the 10 residents given notification, one woman, we’ll call her Kathy, who said her husband had committed suicide under the bridge last week, was interested in getting plugged in to the necessary resources to get off the streets.
“I’ve been trying to get out for about a year,” Kathy said. “I have a full time job and it’s just really difficult right now.”