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Bi-Annual Homeless Count Shows Hundreds Living Unsheltered

On Tuesday, community groups did a head-count of the number of homeless people in Greene, Webster and Christian counties. KSMU's Jennifer Moore reports.

Hundreds of men, women and children stood in line Tuesday outside The Kitchen in Springfield to get a free burger or hot dog. They were also there for another reason: to be counted.

It was the bi-annual homeless count sponsored by the Community Partnership of the Ozarks in conjunction with other groups trying to end homelessness.

The count was part of a statewide initiative to determine the number of homeless in Missouri.

One young man standing in line was 17-year-old Jeff Thompson.

The "Mo-Ho" he's referring to is a nickname for the Missouri Hotel, the state's largest homeless shelter. It's run by the Kitchen and the barbecue was in the alley behind it.

Another person at the barbecue was 25-year-old Mark, who says he camps out every night and takes odd-jobs whenever and wherever he can.

Volunteers have been roaming the streets for days, looking for homeless individuals at bus stops, underneath bridges, and at drop-ins to tell them about the barbecue, and inviting them to attend.

On of those volunteers is Christopher Smith of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks. He says that while they still don't have the official tally of homeless, the turnout was excellent..

He's been working in partnership with the Kitchen and other organizations to organize count.

He says volunteers at the barbecue also interviewed homeless individuals to learn more about their needs and why they're homeless.

On a community level, Smith says the bi-annual count is important to know the scope of the homeless problem so that we can determine what they need to get back on their feet.

Also, he says they report the info to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides federal money to combat homelessness.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.