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Homeless campsite bulldozed after new ordinance enacted

At the beginning of November the city enacted a new ordinance against "open camping" on public property.

Posted: Nov 26, 2019 3:16 PM

(ST.JOSEPH, Mo.)  Imagine all of your belongings bulldozed down, scooped up and thrown in a dumpster.

That's what happened to St. Joseph's Donnita Payne on Monday.

"I'm sorry I'm overwhelmed. So much stuff was lost," Payne said.

Payne had been living under the I-229 bridge by the Missouri River along with about ten other people when MoDOT crews came in to clean up the area.

"They're down here bulldozing our stuff. I mean, homeless is homeless," Payne said.  "What is anybody doing? There's only a handful of us. We;re not causing any trouble."

Payne and the others fell victim to a new ordinance recently passed by the St. Joseph City Council preventing "open camping" on public property. The new law specifically was targeted toward homeless campsites.

"Some people don't have anywhere to go sometimes. The shelters are full. What are they supposed to do?" Payne said.

For MoDOT crews doing the work, they say they are only trying to help.

"The whole goal is to make sure that we are working with those people and providing those resources to them that they know where they're at right now is not safe for themselves or others," said Tanya Lohman, MoDOT spokesperson.

Payne and her friends were able to salvage a few items before the bulldozers came through. Now they are trying to sort through what they will do next during this holiday season.

"This is our Thanksgiving. This is what we get," Payne said.

Lohman said that MoDOT crews erected signage at the campsite several weeks ago saying it was illegal to camp underneath the bridge and that those living there should have been moved out already.

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