Some merchants concerned about community recovery center in downtown Cape Girardeau

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) – There is growing concern in downtown Cape Girardeau about a local community center and the crowds of people it brings to Broadway.

The We Do Recover Community Center is in the 700 block of Broadway.

According to the Gibson Center for Behavioral Change, the center is a gathering place for newly recovering drug addicts, where they can spend time together and be close to needed services.

But several nearby business owners say customers who openly use drugs and harass passers-by cause them to lose patience and business.

Seeing needles open at the Flesh Hound Tattoo shop is nothing new; But, owner Renee Gordon says she found used hypodermic needles on her property.

And she saw them 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 directly across from the We Do Recover Community Center.

Flesh Hound Tattoo owner Renee Gordon shares her concerns about the crowds gathered outside the centre.(KFVS)

“My concerns are basically that we’re going to lose business,” she says. “Not just us, but also our neighbors.”

I heard the same concern across the street at River City Coins and Jewelry.

“My customers have repeatedly complained about being harassed,” says owner Mike Sprouse. “I’ve had older people who have expressed they want to come in, but they saw this group and decided they didn’t want to.”

Needles found in the driveway next to Flesh Hound Tattoo on August 13, 2022.
Needles found in the driveway next to Flesh Hound Tattoo on August 13, 2022.(Flesh Dog Tattoo)

Gordon showed me cellphone video she recorded on a Friday afternoon in July, showing a large group of people outside the center.

“It’s a lot of commotion and rowdiness,” she said of the crowd, “which would be intimidating for anyone to have to try to navigate just to get down the sidewalk.”

Shane Sprouse of River City Coins describes what he saw and heard.

“Screaming, screaming at people across the street. Just catcalling,” Sprouse said. “And all this negativity that was once a peaceful street turned into a nightmare.”

Sprouse also describes an incident several weekends ago when a mother and her teenage daughter walked into the coin store.

“And I was like, ‘Are you okay?’ And she was like, ‘No, a guy just grabbed my ass. And I was like, ‘Oh my God. Are you kidding me?’ And she was like, ‘Mom, I want to go. I have to get out of here.

Mike Sprouse, owner of River City Coins and Jewelry, and his son Shane Sprouse share their concerns...
River City Coins and Jewelry owner Mike Sprouse and his son Shane Sprouse share their concerns about the crowds gathered outside the center.(KFVS)

I raised these concerns directly with Ryan Essex, the COO of the Gibson Center for Behavioral Change which runs this community center.

“Certainly we want to be good neighbours,” Essex tells me. “We want to do what we can to support businesses in the region. We are a local business.

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 congregate.

“Last month, over 250 unique people walked through our door.”

Essex says they have taken steps to prevent large crowds from gathering outside the centre. He tells me that he has not seen open drug use himself, but says that it is not covert substance use that is a problem at Cape Girardeau.

“If anyone sees something going on like this, they should call the authorities. Because we will not tolerate any illegal behavior that occurs around our establishment. »

Ryan Essex of the Gibson Center for Behavioral Change shows me inside the community center.
Ryan Essex of the Gibson Center for Behavioral Change shows me inside the community center.(KFVS)

I asked Mike Sprouse, who did business downtown for 29 years, if there was a solution.

“To have them move this place to another area,” he replied.

Is this the right place for them to experience their early recovery? I asked Essex.

“The right place is where they come in through one of our doors,” he replied. “If someone is 8 p.m. or under the influence, we have other facilities here in town that might better serve their needs. And that’s where we’re trying to get them.

These business owners tell me that they are not against what the center does. They just don’t think this busy downtown corridor is the place to do it.

“I love the downtown vibe,” says Renee Gordon. “I love that people are starting to develop this area. I don’t want to see that diminish. I want our city to grow in a more positive direction. And right now, I think we’re at an unstable crossroads.

Gordon and Sprouse provided me with letters they sent to town hall. Cape Girardeau Mayor Stacy Kinder says she hasn’t received them.

After I provided her with copies, she met with me to share her thoughts on the situation.

“Well, the City of Cape certainly wants to address any concerns, especially safety concerns that our business owners or residents have,” Kinder tells me. “If there are particular issues that all mixed-use users in our town center face, we need to know about them. And certainly, if there are, as I said, public safety issues, we have to react, be able to respond quickly to those.

Mayor Kinder says she plans to reach out to affected business owners.

I have contacted Cape Girardeau Police regarding all calls received regarding the “We Do Recover” community center.

Records show four calls for service regarding drug use in the alley next to the center since May.

Ryan Essex tells me they have no current plans to move the community center.

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Jill E. Washington