- Associated Press - Sunday, May 21, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Nonprofit groups and Springfield officials are planning a new approach to a large homeless camp in the city that will provide services at the camp for about a week before the city begins ticketing people there, with a goal of permanently clearing the property.

In early June, agencies and nonprofits will create a triage response team near the camp in north Springfield to provide access to medical and mental health services, emergency shelter assessments, help with obtaining identifications, meals and basic supplies, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://sgfnow.co/2qzRBbc ).

Municipal Court Judge Todd Thornhill also agreed to conduct a homeless court at the triage center for people who have warrants and other legal issues.

The property owner, Lurvey Properties, agreed to the plan and might provide use of empty office space at a nearby strip mall.

City spokeswoman Cora Scott said Gathering Friends, a group of homeless advocates, will meet with the homeless in the next few weeks to discuss the plan and encourage them to stay in the region for now.

About a week after the triage center opens, anyone found on the property will be ticketed for trespassing. The land will be cleared, with the property owner paying for the cleanup, according to information presented to city officials. Tentative plans are for city workers to clear the property in mid-June.

“Police calls for service in this area for situations directly related to this camp far exceed any other homeless area in the city,” said Jim O’Neal, former mayor and member of the Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness. “Both the police and the nearby business owners are understandably frustrated by the ongoing problems associated with the camp.”

Some homeless people likely will just move to another area, he said, but the hope is having access to social services will be an opportunity “to make real and meaningful progress for our ultimate goal of ending homelessness in our community.”

Michelle Garand of Community Partnership of the Ozarks said providing meals, hot coffee and care packages for the campers should hopefully be an incentive for homeless people to stay in the area to get the services.

“We are working very hard to get those service providers there,” she said. “The Alliance is really excited about this, and I think it really just builds a great model for how we are providing services to the homeless.”

Tracy Kimberlin, president of Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, commended the homeless alliance for its work but said he believes many of the people living in the camp are not interested in getting help.

“We could develop a reputation as a good place to come if you are homeless or if you want to panhandle,” Kimberlin said. “We have to be very careful to balance that and let the people who don’t want the help to know they are not welcome here.”

Scott said it’s unclear what will happen to homeless people who don’t want the services.

“We are going to bring the services forward,” Scott said. “If enforcement is necessary, we are going to do that. But we are just going to give it our best effort.”

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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