Dozens of residents and local organizations in the Historic Northeast community gathered at Kessler Park in the frigid temperatures Thursday, Jan. 3, to clean up the remnants of a homeless camp.
The park is located in the Northeast between Pendleton Heights and Scarritt Renaissance, with Cliff Drive, the State Scenic Byway, winding through the middle.
Volunteers scaled down the steep hill overlooking the East Bottoms, tossing large empty plastic trash containers and recycling bins to the people below. Several containers were filled to the brim with old clothes, plastic bottles, food containers, wrappers, plastic bags, blankets, and some things that were just unrecognizable.
The trash containers were filled within seconds with garbage, hauled up the hill, and emptied into one of two bright orange 20-yard dumpsters at the top.
The first dumpster was full within an hour.
This community-wide effort began when John Bordeau, a Northeast resident was walking his dog in the area a few days ago and found the littered site. He posted it on Facebook and said it took off from there.
“This is in my backyard,” said Bordeau. “A lot of other people hopped into action and organized this and got the dumpsters. Many hands make light work. The people from Jerusalem Farms did the legwork and ordered the dumpsters and got some volunteers here.”
Bordeau addressed the root of the issue– homeless camps– saying this massive cleanup is much needed, but could be prevented.
“This park is quite an asset to the city. It’s beautiful and it’s a shame that it’s not treated better. I think the City does need to dedicate more resources and assets to it. This kind of thing could be prevented if we had a few more park rangers and some more money for the park.”
Jordan Schiele, Project Director with Jerusalem Farms, said he ordered the dumpsters and brought some volunteers from the organization to help with the cleanup.
Jerusalem Farm is a Catholic Intentional community located in the Historic Northeast whose mission is to make themselves available to the needs of the community through addressing home repair needs and coordinating volunteers from Kansas City.
A volunteer with Jerusalem Farms, said it is good to see so many people from the neighborhood coming together in a single effort.
“It’s a neighborhood solidarity effort to bring hope. We are interested in restoring Cliff Drive area. It’s important to address these camp sites. After they’re abandoned, they’re often very littered like this.”
Workers remained at the abandoned camp site for hours, cleaning up the entire area and filling both 20-yard dumpsters. They also cleaned up what seemed to be a small hangout spot near Gate 2, and hauled away bags of trash that residents had dumped there.
Jessie Schiele told the Northeast News that the site had been fully cleaned with the help of all the hands that assisted in this community-wide effort.
That singular success prompted a meet-up Sunday afternoon at Cliff Drive’s Gate 3 to identify additional camps and schedule more clean-ups.
“What we’re trying to do today is just find some more locations that need attention, and here’s one of them” said Bordeau, as the group of a dozen or so community members made their way along a trail just west of the Colonnade in Kessler Park.
Prior to setting foot into the woods, one neighbor picked up a hypodermic needle from the middle of the street.
“This is exactly what we’re here to address” said Scarritt Renaissance resident Michael Stringer, who expressed concern about the growing issue of transient camps and the crime that often goes with them.
“We found drug paraphernalia, needles, human waste, all the bad things you would never want to run into on a hike or in a park.”
Roughly a dozen neighborhood residents from at least four Northeast neighborhoods met at Gate 3 of Cliff Drive on Sunday afternoon to identify additional camps along the ByWay and discuss how to address the issue in one of Kansas City’s largest parks.
“It’s way more than group of people can address” said Bordeau.
At least four areas were identified on Sunday; a second clean-up is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 12 at 10am beginning at the west end of the Colonnade in the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood.