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Cabool Homeless Shelter Gets ‘Christmas in April’

In larger cities there are typically several resources dedicated to the homeless, but these same services are harder to find in smaller communities. This past weekend, one of the few homeless shelters in south central Missouri celebrated its 11th anniversary with a new roof and other needed repairs, carried out by the Fort Leonard Wood Navy Center. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with the shelter’s founder, as well as a spokesperson from the Navy, and files this report.

In the city of Cabool, about 80 miles east of Springfield, is a place called “Tod’s Motel,” which is a part of “Set Free Ozark Ministries.” This is one of only two shelters dedicated to helping the homeless in south central Missouri. This transitional living facility was started by Reverend Rex Self and his wife, and serves roughly a 35-40 mile radius.

"In the last year we've housed over 1500 people. Some for one day. Some longer. I have a gentleman that's been with us for a little over a year now. He is in remission from cancer. As far as meals served, and not just food that is handed but actual cooked meals, we have served over 3000 in the last year." said Self.

Self says that the shelter is a self-funded, non-profit organization that does not receive government funding. Their services revolve around their very small volunteer base, support from surrounding churches, and money that they raise themselves. When costly repairs or projects arise, times call for outside forces. That’s where the Navy Seabees came into the picture. Lt. Terry L. Knapp is with the Seabees in Ft. Leonard Wood.

"We're actually the engineers; the construction workers for the Navy. Just like the Army has their combat engineers, and the Marine Corps has their combat engineers. The Navy has the Seabees." Knapp said.

This past Saturday, the Seabees did what Knapp calls a one-day blitz make-over for the shelter. They installed a new roof, tile flooring, and walls. Knapp says that this event included more than 40 Seabees ranging from trainees to commanding officers. Knapp says that projects like this one are their way of giving back to the community, as part of their annual “Christmas in April.”

"This is just one location. Everywhere there are Seabees, we do 'Christmas in April.' No matter where we are. Whether it be overseas or in the United States. We do kind of a mini 'exteme makeover home edition' in a day. We do whatever we can get done in a day. This is our way of giving back to the community." said Knapp.

This past winter, the shelter had to turn away as many as 50 homeless families including children. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.