CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) – There’s a growing concern in downtown Cape Girardeau involving a local community center and the crowds it’s bringing to Broadway.
We Do Recover Community Center is located in the 700 block of Broadway.
According to the Gibson Center for Behavior Change, the center is a gathering place for newly recovering addicts where they can spend time together and be close to needed services.
But some nearby business owners say patrons who openly use drugs and harass passers-by are losing their patience and business.
Seeing open needles at the Flesh Hound Tattoo shop is nothing new; but owner Renee Gordon says she’s found used needles under the skin on her property.
And she has seen them being used.
“I saw a person take off their shoes and use a syringe to inject drugs into their feet,” Gordon tells me. “Just across the street on the sidewalk.”
Gordon’s tattoo shop is located across the street from the We Do Recover Community Center.
“My concerns are basically that we’re going to lose business,” she says. “Not only us, but also our neighbors.”
I heard the same concern across the street at River City Coins and Jewelry.
“I’ve had some complaints from my customers about harassment,” says owner Mike Sprouse. “I’ve had older people say they want to come in, but they see this group and decide they don’t want to.”
Gordon showed me cell phone video she recorded on a Friday afternoon in July showing a large group of people outside the center.
“It’s so much chaos and confusion,” she says of the crowd, “that it would be intimidating for anyone trying to navigate just to get down to the sidewalk.”
Shane Sprouse of River City Coins describes what he saw and heard.
“Screaming, shouting at people in the street. Just calling,” Sprouse said. “And all this negativity that used to be a peaceful street has turned into a nightmare.”
Sprouse also describes an incident a few weekends ago when a mother and her teenage daughter walked into the coin shop.
And I said, ‘Are you okay?’ And she said, ‘No, a guy just grabbed my butt. And I said, ‘Oh my god. Are you kidding me?’ And she said, ‘Mom, I want to go. I have to get out of here.”
I took these concerns directly to Ryan Essex, the chief operating officer of the Gibson Center for Behavior Change who runs this community center.
“Of course, we want to be good neighbors,” Essex tells me. “We want to do what we can to support businesses in the area. We are a business in this area.”
Essex describes the facility as a support center. No treatment is provided.
Instead, he tells me, it’s designed to give those recovering from addiction a safe, substance-free place to gather.
“Last month, we had over 250 unique individuals walk through our door.”
Essex says they have taken steps to keep large crowds from gathering outside the centre. He tells me he hasn’t seen open drug use himself, but says it’s no secret substance use is a problem in Cape Girardeau.
“If anyone sees something like this happening, they should call the authorities. Because we will not condone any illegal behavior that occurs in our surrounding facility.”
I asked Mike Sprouse, who has done business downtown for 29 years, if he has a solution.
“For them to move this location to another area,” he replied.
Is this the right place for them to experience their early healing? I asked Essex.
“The right place is wherever they enter one of our doors,” he replied. “If someone is 20 hours or under the influence, we have other facilities here in town that may be able to better meet their needs. And that’s where we try to take them.”
These business owners tell me they are not against what the center is doing. They just don’t think this busy downtown corridor is the place to do it.
“I absolutely love the downtown feel,” says Renee Gordon. “I like that people are starting to develop this area. I don’t want to see it diminish. I want our city to grow in a more positive direction. And now, I think we’re at an unstable crossroads.”
Both Gordon and Sprouse gave me letters they sent to the municipality. Cape Girardeau Mayor Stacy Kinder says she didn’t get them.
After I gave her copies, she met with me to share her thoughts on the situation.
“Well, of course the City of Cape Town wants to respond to any concerns, especially safety concerns that our business owners or residents of all have,” Kinder tells me. “If there are particular issues that all mixed-use users of our center have, we need to know about it. And of course, if there are, as I said, public safety issues, we need to respond, be able to respond quickly to them.”
Mayor Kinder says she plans to reach out to interested business owners.
I contacted the Cape Girardeau Police for any calls received regarding the We Do Recover Community Center.
Records show four service calls about drug use in the alley adjacent to the center since May.
Ryan Essex tells me they have no current plans to move the community center.
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