Slums of Joplin - Kansas City Bottoms

Homelessness in the American context is not new. It is a natural outcome for a profit-based society that allows social safety nets to slowly rot and disappear. It can be an "invisible" problem due to increasing societal and mental isolation and the erosion of community. Most of us simply do not want to see the homeless... if we do not see them, it is as if they do not exist. The results of this sentiment are regularly demonstrated by the police and authorities in many American municipalities. The way homeless are treated is a strong indictment of moral decay in the US.

Poverty is not new to Joplin. Historic Joplin has an excellent article series called the Kansas City Bottoms which explores some of the history of the area. In describing Joplin Creek, next to Landreth Park, the author writes:

"If only its silent waters could tell stories of the contentious rivalry between East and West Joplin, the mining operations that clouded its waters, and of the numerous families who lived in dire poverty along its banks in what was once known as the “Kansas City Bottoms.”

The contrast between the opulence of the Joplin Elite and those who lived in tents and shanties in the Bottoms is striking. The area was eventually "cleaned up" to make room for Union Depot, which Joplin citizens saw as a great victory of the people in pursuit of a higher quality-of-life and in competition with Springfield, MO (we all know who won that battle.)

Today, while the numbers are not nearly as dire, homelessness is on the rise in the United States, and in Joplin. Since Union Depot closed, many homeless individuals have found some refuge next to the banks of the same Joplin Creek that was once called the Slum of Joplin.

Here is an excellent portrait of the not-so-far-away oft-forgotten homeless here in Joplin.


Also, one of the best stories about poverty in America traces the journey of Dasani, an 11-year-old in New York City.

Image Credit:


Lief Eric Malone's picture
Lief Eric Malone

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Slums of Joplin - Kansas City Bottoms