I-70 underpass issues persist, cause concern for businesses
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Handling issues related to people experiencing homelessness continues to be a challenge for many cities in the metro.
One underpass in Kansas City is getting more attention from nearby business owners.
“It’s starting to feel dirty and kind of on the unsafe side,” Cindy Neal, who has owned Neal’s Gallery and Frame Shop since 1988, said.
Neal told KSHB 41 News the amount of people living under the bridge continues to grow and the piles of trash scattered around is the worst she’s seen in her more than three decades in the shopping center.
“Sometimes you see the beer and the alcohol bottles up under that hill,” Neal said. “I think I’ve lost a few customers from not feeling comfortable being in the area.”
The same concerns from businesses owners echo a few doors down.
“It’s just bad for business, you know some people really don’t want to be around that environment,” Charles Weston, owner of DrumMagazines.com, said. “An eye sore issue, you know as far as just trash and things that you see scattered up and down the highway and right under the bridge.”
For those who are experiencing homelessness, many did not want to live this way.
“It was either I hit the streets or my nephews hit the streets and I didn’t want them on the street,” Teri Glor, who has experienced homelessness off and on for the past 11 years, said. “It’s real difficult, people look at you weird, they think they’re better than you and you explain to them that everybody has a story we can make you walk away laughing or you can walk away and cry.”
Glor said while many onlookers think they should all find jobs, it’s not as easy when you don’t have a house.
“It’s harder than hell to get a job when you’re homeless,” Glor said.
The issues under the bridge are not new. KSHB 41 News wrote a story in 2018 when complaints continued from business owners.
Right now there’s outreach groups like Care Beyond The Boulevard helping those living under the bridge with free medical care and other needs.
“I understand the concern of, you know, community members who are like, well we don’t want them in our group, so there’s no place for people who are experiencing homelessness to go,” said K.K., founder of the organization.
K.K. said it’s not just one issue those experiencing homelessness face, it’s a multi-faceted issue with few resources.
“The majority of them have some type of mental illness and the mental health resources in the United States are really lacking,” K.K. said.
The organization also helps those experiencing homelessness get ID’s, birth certificates and a pathway to finding permanent housing.
“We are out here every other Tuesday, we provide health care to them… if they need assistance with IDs and birth certificates,” K.K. said. “Nobody should be living on the streets but the reality is that there are people all over America, the numbers are growing in every city in America.”
KSHB 41 reached out to several entities about who is responsible for cleaning up the area:
MoDOT is not a law enforcement agency and therefore we do not have the authority to displace or remove citizens from our right of way.
However, we do have “no trespassing” verbiage on most of our bridges and overpasses for law enforcement purposes.
In the meantime, we continue to work with the City of Kansas City and the Kansas City Police Department to identify solutions for persons experiencing homelessness on our right-of-way.
We provided trash bags to the houseless residents and swung by with trucks to pick up the bags.
KCMO does not conduct homeless camp sweeps. Our approach includes sending homeless outreach coordinators and case workers and offering temporary and permanent housing options and other services while simply volunteering to assist with moving any personal belongings or people upon request only. That is our goal—finding permanent, safe housing options for the unhoused.
We recently met with KC leadership and working on strategies to address the individuals under the bridge as well as the large amount of debris that has accumulated in the area. MoDOT has also agreed to provide extra mowing cycles to address the high vegetation in the area. This is an excellent example of how cross-jurisdictional collaboration can bring everyone together to address a situation. We look forward to continuing the conversation as we work to address issues of homelessness and trash in our right-of-way.
We continue to work with MoDot on their operations and will respond to keep the peace in regard to those to ensure everyones safety.