On a sunny and breezy Friday, three church organizations converged on the Interstate 435 and 24 Highway overpass to clean trash from the existing camps under the bridge.
Dominick Totta, with Army of the Living God, teamed up with Belmont Baptist Church and Scott Stoner with Hands and Feet of Jesus to come and clean up the camp.
All of the accumulated trash was hauled to a landfill and dumped legally that afternoon. During the clean up, dozens of drivers honked their horns, often slowing and shouting thanks and encouragement to the clean up crews.
Organizers at this event wanted to stress that no displacement of any of the individuals living under the bridge took place. However an ongoing conversation will be had in regards to those residing there, and how they can help to take care of it themselves.
“We just talk to them like normal people,” Scott Stoner said. “We all bring them food and resources and try to get them to be more self sufficient.”
“Its really just the people who have a heart for this area that are here helping on a continued basis,” Totta added.
Pastor Shane Coburn with Belmont Baptist Church indicated that during the cold, his church building is opened up and sleeping bags are offered for those who want to stay inside.
“Obviously we can’t have drugs in the church,” he said. “But we’re here doing what we can to take care of them with some respect.”
At the end of the day, a good percentage of the litter and trash under the bridge and in the adjacent grassy easements bordering I-435 was cleaned up by volunteers, some from under the bridge, and carted off to the landfill.
“The real goal here is to talk with them and work with them and see how we can keep this clean,” said Totta. “The Bible talks about rebuilding the desolate places. That’s why were here.”