Homeless told to move on. They’re used to it.

By Joe Stumpe

If you spotted what looked like a caravan of homeless persons’ belongings inching north along the Arkansas River this week, you weren’t alone. Motorists driving on Meridian stopped to photograph the scene, which consisted of about a dozen shopping carts piled high with bedding, clothes and more.

Many passers-by probably thought the carts belonged to a number of homeless people being evicted from encampments along the riverbank by the city. In fact, they belonged to one couple, who had been evicted from two rented storage units for, they said, allegedly living in the units.

Denise Dodd, one half of the homeless couple, denied that.

But there have been recent evictions of other homeless people by the city along the river, according to several interviewed there Tuesday and a city spokesperson.

“This will be my fourth move in four weeks,” said a homeless man who asked to be identified only as Joe.

Put it all together and there was plenty to draw the attention of passing motorists.

Krista Stewart waved back at one of the motorists who’d stopped and aimed a cell phone at the scene Tuesday. She’s a resident of nearby Indian Hills who had walked over to help Dodd and her partner.

The couple had managed to rent another storage unit and were on their way there, but it was slow going, with the caravan making a block or two progress per day. A person with a truck who’d they paid to help them had disappeared. Stewart brought the couple bottles of water.

“Everybody deserves a roof over their head,” she said. “I see every single one of us as a step away from being in this predicament.”

“There’s a bunch of people here for different reasons,” said Dodd, who’s been homeless about three years.

Stewart and another Indian Hills resident, who asked not to be identified, then began helping the homeless couple pushing their caravan down west 13th Street, to a rental storage unit near it and St. Paul.

Stewart said she wasn’t sure how her fellow Indian Hills residents felt about the scene playing out in their front yard.

“All anyone wants to do is push them along,” she said.

Meanwhile, back at 13th and Meridian, Joe was moving his belongings to a spot where he hoped it wouldn’t be seen by city employees, at least for a while. Joe, who’s been homeless about nine years, said he once found a location on public property in Wichita where he lived undisturbed for more than a year, even though “they knew I was there.”

Looking east across the river, Joe speculated that the city’s reason for evicting homeless people in the area might be River Trail Village, a new patio home development along the river at the north end of Sim Golf Course. But he didn’t know that for sure.

Joe said he understands that property owners and “taxpayers” take precedence over homeless in the city’s eyes, though he noted that he pays sales tax on purchases. And he said some of his fellow homeless residents trash the riverbank.

On the other hand, if there was a trash can or dumpster in the area, they might use that, he said. One that had been located there caught fire and hasn’t been replaced, he said. “If that was downtown, they’d replace it.”

“This year has been the worst” of any he’s spent on the street, Joe said. “There’s more homeless and therefore more push to move them out.”

Asked about city action with regard to homeless people along the river, city spokeswoman Megan Lovely issued this statement:

“The Riverside Park encampment cleanup is being done due to resident complaints and environmental and safety concerns. Debris included a mattress in the river, debris and trash getting into the river and more. There are some environmental safety concerns of homeless camps along the river because of this location. Notification of homeless camp cleanup is given 72 hours prior to the cleanup. The Homeless Outreach Team is also patrolling and connecting unhoused residents with services, including the 24- hour winter shelter at HumanKind Ministries. The city is slated to spend more than $10 million in the next year alone on homeless services and has increased funding for homeless services year over year for the past three years.”

Lovely also released a photo of a large amount of trash spilling into the river from an encampment.

This article was republished here with the permission of: The Active Age