Police: Joplin’s indigent population fluctuates with weather

Philip Martin

The homeless problem in Joplin is not a problem for the police department.

Cpl. John Wales, police officer for the city of Joplin, said the problem is no bigger than any other city the size of Joplin.

“We have our share of indigent people, but as a rule we don’t have that bad of a problem,” Wales said.

“The warm weather seems to spring more. In the winter months you don’t have as near as many, because it’s too cold for them to stand outside. They’ll, for the lack of better words, migrate to another area, another warmer climate.”

Wales said as the weather starts getting warmer, more homeless persons will start showing up in Joplin.

When confronted with individuals who are homeless, JPD will talk to the people and help them find a place to stay.

The only times the police will do this is if the individuals are trespassing on city property or they have received a complaint from a citizen about a homeless person.

“On city property, you’re not able to set up a campsite,” Wales said.

“We do have other areas that is publicly owned or corporation owned where the homeless will go set up campsites. So, we do have those kind of trespassing and loitering cases that we can follow up on.”

When the police first encounter a homeless person receiving a call, the officers will give a warning and tell that person to move on.

“If the owner of the property is consistent with signing a complaint then they (the homeless individual) will be cited and have to attend court,” Wales said.

If the person is unable to attend court, the police follow standard procedure and have an arrest warrant issued. If the person is ever in contact with the police again, they can be arrested.

The police do not want to arrest the homeless.

The police have ways to help the homeless out.

“We have a chaplain’s program, where there are ministers, preachers and different ministries in the Joplin area,” Wales said.

“They come together and they have funds where they can either help people out in that period of time or, if it is just a time of need, to get back to their original homes.”