Some business owners concerned about recovery community center in downtown Cape Girardeau
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - There’s growing concern in downtown Cape Girardeau involving a local community center and the crowds of people it’s bringing to Broadway.
The We Do Recover Community Center sits in the 700 block of Broadway.
According to the Gibson Center for Behavioral Change, the center is a gathering place for newly recovering addicts, where they can spend time together and be close to needed services.
But several business owners nearby say clients openly using drugs and harassing people walking past is causing them to lose patience and business.
Seeing open needles at the Flesh Hound Tattoo shop is nothing new; but, Owner Renee Gordon says she’s found used hypodermic needles on her property.
And she’s seen them being used.
“I saw a person remove their shoes and use a syringe to inject drugs into their feet”, Gordon tells me. “Right across the street on the sidewalk.”
Gordon’s tattoo shop sits right across the street from the We Do Recover Community Center.
“My concerns are basically that we are going to lose business”, she says. “Not just us, but also our neighbors.”
I heard that same concern across the street at River City Coins and Jewelry.
“I’ve had several complaints from my customers about being harassed”, says owner Mike Sprouse. “I’ve had older folks that expressed that they want to come in but they see this group and decided they didn’t want to.”
Gordon showed me cell phone video she recorded on a Friday afternoon back in July, showing a large group of people outside the center.
“It’s a lot of commotion and ruckus”, she says of the crowd, “which would be intimidating for anyone to have to try and navigate through just to get down the sidewalk.”
Shane Sprouse from River City Coins describes what he’s seen and heard.
“Yelling, screaming at people across the street. Just catcalling,” said Sprouse. “And all this negativity that, once was a peaceful street has turned into a nightmare.”
Sprouse also describes an incident several weekends ago when a mother and her teenage daughter walked into the coin shop.
“And I was like, ‘Are you ok?’ And she was like, ‘No, a guy just grabbed my butt. And I was like, ‘Oh my goodness. Are you kidding me?’ And she was just like, ‘Mom, I want to go. I’ve got to get out of here.’”
I took these concerns directly to Ryan Essex, the chief operating officer of the Gibson Center for Behavioral Change which runs this community center.
“Certainly, we want to be good neighbors”, Essex tells me. “We want to do what we can to support the businesses in the area. We are a business in the area.”
Essex describes the facility as a support center. No treatment offered.
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’ve taken steps to keeps large crowds from gathering outside the center. He tells me he has not seen open drug use himself but says it’s no secret substance use is an issue in Cape Girardeau.
“If someone sees something that’s happening like that, they should call the authorities. Because we’re not going to condone any illegal behavior happening in our around our facility.”
I asked Mike Sprouse, who’s done business downtown for 29 years, if there’s a solution.
“For them to move this location to another area,” he responded.
Is this the right place for them to be experiencing their early recovery? I asked Essex.
“The right place is wherever they enter one of our doors”, he answered. “If someone is 20 hours or under the influence, we have other facilities here in town that might be able to better meet their needs. And that’s where we try to get them to.”
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 feel of downtown”, Renee Gordon says. “I love that people are starting to develop this area. I don’t want to see that diminish. I want our town to grow in a more positive direction. And right now, I think that we’re at a volatile crossroad.”
Both Gordon and Sprouse provided me with letters they sent to city hall. Cape Girardeau Mayor Stacy Kinder says she did not receive them.
After I provided her with copies, she met with me to share her thoughts on the situation.
“Well, certainly the city of Cape wants to be responsive to any concerns, especially safety concerns that our business owners or residents anyone have”, Kinder tells me. “If there are particular issues that all the mixed-use users of our downtown are having, we need to know about that. And certainly, if there are, like I said, public safety issues, we need to respond, be able to respond quickly to those.”
Mayor Kinder says she plans to reach out to those concerned business owners.
I reached out to Cape Girardeau Police about any calls received concerning the “We Do Recover” Community Center.
Records show four service calls regarding drug use in the alley next to the center since May.
Ryan Essex tells me they have no current plans to relocate the community center.
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