Proposed Joplin community shelter shut down by city

JOPLIN, Mo.–Throughout the week, we’ve told you about “Lincoln heights.” A proposed shelter in Joplin to give hope to those experiencing homelessness. As of last night, it’s been shut down.

The Joplin area was under a winter weather advisory Saturday night, with temperatures dropping as low as twelve degrees.

For those experiencing homelessness, it can be life or death.

“Certainly there’s a large concern because we have more people living on the streets in Joplin than we have available beds in our available shelters. So there will most definitely be people outside sleeping in the single-digit temperatures right here in our city. That’s heartbreaking,” said Joshua Shackles, a community volunteer.

To help more experiencing homelessness seek shelter, a temporary warming station was set up by the old botany shop in Joplin.

But on Friday night around 8:30 pm, Shackles said members of the Joplin Police Department had arrived due to numerous complaints, and the area was shut down.

“So our hope was to secure an empty building that did not have electrical or heat as a last-ditch effort to try to keep people alive during the cold snap. um, apparently that is against some city regulations and we have been told to cease that activity for now.”

We reached out to Joplin mayor Ryan Stanley to see why the city decided to make this move.

“Well, when you’re dealing with any time where you’re going to house people, you’ve got to get a facility that is, you know, compliant with our ordinances,” said Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley.

The mayor tells us the temporary shelter was not in compliance with city ordinances like other area shelters are.

“The facility does not have plumbing, which is required. And then also it’s not zoned for the approval to house people. And so we would need them to come before the city with going through the zoning process, but also going through the inspection process to make sure that we are putting together safe solutions,” Stanley said.

Now that the area is shut down, community organizers say they worry about capacity at Joplin’s existing shelters, and what will happen to the rest of the homeless population.

“The biggest important thing is that having shelter is one of the most important things that a person can face in their entire life, and the lack of shelter can be devastating for a long time,” said Shackles.

The city does have a temporary shelter and plans to open it up if temperatures are to drop below zero degrees.

“Our justice center there, right where the police department is at third and Kentucky, would be the warming center that we would open up. It wouldn’t house people, but it basically would give people the ability to come in and get warm, and we will automatically open that up if we get temperatures below zero degrees and kind of a sustained scenario, which we’re not quite to yet. But I do know that the city is being proactive with our response and following our cold weather plan and policies,” Mayor Stanley said.

But until then, the homeless population may have to look for other shelters to stay warm, which those working directly with the homeless say are full, according to Shackles. Joplin City officials say local shelters were not full.

Today, community members gathered at Ewert Park in Joplin to distribute items like food and blankets to those experiencing homelessness.

These items were originally going to be used for the warming shelter.

Mayor Stanley also said he would be willing to discuss plans for the homeless population with organizers of the warming center.

(This article has edited to include information from the City of Joplin on local shelters not being full.)