Amy Cunningham
A homeless couple was asked to leave a site they had been squatting on at the intersection of Clare Road and 175th Street in Gardner on Wednesday morning.
The home, long vacant, was destroyed by the property owner more than a week ago, but the couple remained on the property with several vehicles packed full of all of their belongings and their dog. According to the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, the couple was given until the end of the week to vacate the area or face possible prosecution for criminal trespassing.
Wednesday morning the woman remained at the site, unsure of what to do – her companion was arrested earlier in the day for outstanding child support payments.
“I’m-I’m just not sure what to do,” she said, shell-shocked.
She said that prior to his arrest, her husband’s  was able to secure a small storage unit, but they had almost filled it completely full. The woman wasn’t sure how she was going to move the rest of her belongings because the tags on couple’s vehicles weren’t current.
The woman said that the year had been difficult for her and her husband – culminating with a lost house in the Pumpkin Ridge subdivision.
While Gardner isn’t a haven for the homeless, according to Gardner Police Department spokesperson Ilena Spalding, the city does occasionally see passers through in need of assistance.  It is unusual, but not unheard of, for a local family to be homeless. She said the department tries to offer assistance to those in need.
“They have never asked us for assistance,” Spalding said of the pair.
JoAnne Haworth, with the Gardner Multi-Service Center said that she wasn’t quite sure how to best help at this point.  She said that area shelters are already overflowing and that it would be very difficult to get them into the Salvation Army shelter in Olathe since adults with children take priority.  She also said that the pair would, most likely, have to abandon all that they own in order to get into a shelter.
“It’s unfortunate, but many times a homeless person has to choose between staying with their belongings and staying out (in the elements) or going to a shelter,” Haworth explained.  She also said it would most likely be impossible for the couple to keep their dog if they were able to find a shelter that could squeeze them in.
By Wednesday afternoon Reverend Ken Porter of the Gardner First Baptist Church made contact with the woman.  He was able to find additional storage and arrange a tow for the vehicles.
Porter was working on finding people to help the woman transport her items to storage.  He also helped make contact with a relative who agreed to shelter the woman and her dog.