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Northwest Springfield’s Revive 66 homeless camp ‘closed until further notice’

The entrance to the Revive 66 campground on West Chestnut Expressway in Springfield showed a "closed until further notice" sign on the morning of Thursday, April 25, 2024.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
The entrance to the Revive 66 campground on West Chestnut Expressway in Springfield showed a "closed until further notice" sign on the morning of Thursday, April 25, 2024.

On Tuesday, the Revive 66 homeless campground in northwest Springfield announced it was closed until further notice, cutting off walk-up shelter access for homeless men in the area.

This is the voicemail message callers to the Revive 66 campground are hearing this week: “Effective Tuesday, April 23, the Revive 66 campground is closed until further notice. We will communicate on our website and through social media once we’ve resumed operations. Thank you.”

Revive 66 is linked to a parent organization called The Gathering Tree. So are the Eden Village tiny houses. These projects have been hailed as some of the most innovative anti-homelessness efforts of their kind in America.

And since the campground closure was announced Tuesday, it’s not clear when or if Revive 66 will reopen. On Wednesday and Thursday, KSMU reached out to Revive 66 leadership and their attorney several times with no response — calling, emailing and visiting the campsite on West Chestnut Expressway.

Emily Fessler is with the Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness. She has an oversight role arranging help for homeless people in the Springfield area. Fessler says that in addition to the existing beds in Springfield’s patchwork nonprofit homeless-care system, there are only two walk-up shelters: “The only two we have that you can really just walk up to is Safe to Sleep, which is a women’s shelter that is open year-round, and then of course, the trailers.”

On Thursday morning, KMSU asked Fessler what that means for unsheltered individuals in Springfield: "So, there’s not a place where a single adult man, or somebody with a dog, can walk up to and get shelter in Springfield right now. Like, basically everything is maxed out. Is that the bottom line?”

“Yes," Fessler answered. "And that is the bottom line all the time. You know, if you’re a single adult man, you know, you may go to Harbor House or Victory Mission. But the reality is that both of those shelters are always full, and so they do have lists. You know, they can try and move people around to try and get somebody in, but the reality is that our need is far greater than our resources and the beds that we currently have.”

What happens to people displaced when a local resource like Revive 66 closes?

Fessler said, "So most of those folks are going to end up camping out somewhere. So you know, if that is finding a shed in a remote location, if that is going under a bridge, sometimes in the woods, you know, if there is an established camp, that they, they have good rapport with those, those other individuals, they may stay there. A lot of times, you'll, you'll end up seeing folks staying in their car, or in tents, in an encampment.”

NPR reports that the day before Revive 66 announced its closure, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about homelessness issues in the small town of Grants Pass, Oregon. The town adopted local laws essentially banning people from sleeping with a blanket or pillow on any public land, at any time.

Fessler says officials working to help unsheltered people here in the Springfield area are watching the Supreme Court case because it will set nationwide legal precedent.

“Those people still don't have a place to go," she said. "And so most of the time if, you know, police comes across somebody, they're asking them to move and they say, 'Well, where do we move to?’ When the police say ‘I don't know,’ you know, that's going to continue to happen — whether it is illegal or legal.”

Fessler added that the community is “fortunate” to have Springfield police protocols adopted in recent years. City police try to connect homeless individuals with care services, particularly when they’re involved in clearing informal encampments from privately owned lands.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.