Homelessness in Springfield. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

At least three homeless encampments in and around Springfield were shut down and 11 people arrested for trespassing on Wednesday.

The Daily Citizen reached out to the spokesperson from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning to get information about where the encampments were located and if Sheriff Jim Arnott is available for comment, but has not yet got a response. 

Arnott talked about what he called the “small operation” to the Greene County Commission during a briefing Thursday morning.

“We made 11 arrests at three different locations. We gave some warnings to some other folks,” Arnott told the commissioners. “We had one on a MoDOT right-of-way also that we made an arrest on.”

Arnott went on to ask the commissioners if the county could help pay the landfill costs to dispose of the campers’ belongings, trash and other remnants for some of the property owners who are low-income. 

“We’ve got some low-income citizens that can’t afford to do it,” Arnott said. “But they are actually a victim of a crime. That’s how I’m looking at it. I know I can get somebody to help clean it up, but paying the landfill — I was kind of hoping I could get some help on that.”

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott spoke to reporters at the Greene County Jail Dedication. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The commissioners and Arnott seemed to agree the county could help pay the landfill costs if the property owners cannot afford to do so, but they would likely take the issue up on a case-by-case basis in the future. 

Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon thanked Arnott for his efforts during the briefing.

“It may not be popular with some people in the community, but it’s what I call tough love,” Dixon said. “It’s difficult to do, but it’s the right thing to do for those property owners.”

Arnott told the commissioners he hopes to have the Highway Department make “no trespassing by the order of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office” signs that could be posted.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Department made a social media post around noon Thursday that read in part: 

“The frustrated owners of these properties worked with the Sheriff’s Office, requesting the removal of the trespassers who had created these illegal encampments. … 

“It is my responsibility to enforce the laws of this state and protect the rights of these land owners.  Springfield is a great community that provides many resources and shelters to those in need. The Sheriff’s Office is committed to enforcing the laws and connecting those in need with these resources.”   

The post says that when the subjects are released from the Greene County Jail, they will be provided with a list of resources for assistance with food and shelter as well as a taxi voucher to the resource locations.

The post also shared photos from what appears to be a camp that was shut down at another time. In those photos, Arnott is seen walking around in a camp that has lush green grass and trees loaded with green leaves. 

Had the camps been closed by the Springfield Police Department, the city’s protocol for moving homeless camps would likely have been followed, which was established in 2014. 

According to the city’s protocol, officers give the campers 24 to 48 hours’ notice to vacate. Officers also notify One Door, the central point of entry for coordinated intake of shelterless individuals, assessment and referrals for housing and shelter services. One Door then sends staff and advocates to the camp to offer services and help with moving.

Connecting Grounds Pastor Christie Love said she heard reports of several encampments being shut down on Wednesday. She and her husband drove around Wednesday night, trying to find people to make sure they had blankets and coats. The Connecting Grounds is a church that helps the unsheltered community and operates an outreach center on Chestnut Expressway. 

“This problem is so large and it continues to grow,” Love said. “This has to be a problem that unites us and brings us together even if we don’t agree on some of the basic pieces. I think we can all agree that this is not okay, and that Springfield can do better and should do better.”

Pastor Christie Love leads The Connecting Grounds and is a local advocate for the unsheltered in Springfield. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers housing, homelessness, domestic violence and early childhood, among other public affairs issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald