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Various community organizations and volunteers took time Thursday to document the number of homeless people in Christian, Greene, and Webster counties. KSMU’s Shane Franklin reports on this effort to assist the less fortunate.
The “Every One Counts” sheltered and unsheltered homeless count is coordinated in Springfield by many local organizations, including the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Council of Churches, The Salvation Army, and the Veterans Administration.
The information gathered from the count is given to the Missouri Interagency Council to End Homelessness, to assist in their statewide effort.
Will Carter is the marketing specialist for the Community Partnership of the Ozarks. He says that this morning there was a line of homeless people out the door and well down the sidewalk, even before the counting was scheduled to begin. He sees this is a testament to the size of the homeless population in Springfield.
“By having accurate numbers of what our homeless population is in Springfield, and even in the state of Missouri, that’s going to allow us to better serve that population. It’s going to allow all the agencies who work with these folks on a daily basis to know the kinds of numbers they can expect for the next year. It is going to help us to go after funding and things to help improve these people’s lives, and hopefully help us get them out of homelessness and back into some kind of normalcy and some kind of housing situation, where they are not out on the street and they have better access to health care and those things that they need that right now to them is just simple survival,” says Carter.
In addition to gathering numbers for the local homeless population, the event is a way for local agencies to provide essential services, like housing and veteran services, under one roof. Carter says that for many homeless people, seeking out these services on their own could take multiple days and poses frequent logistical challenges.
“The homeless people, even though we’re counting, and in a way it might seem like an invasion to some people, they appreciate what we’re doing. To them this is coming in. This is getting the things that they need. This is getting a hot meal, and it’s walking out of here knowing that someone cares for you and that you’re not just another number, and that you’re not forgotten about,” says Carter.
Local churches provide breakfast, lunch, and snacks for those who attend.
Ronna Lancaster, a community member for over 22 years, left the Salvation Army after eating a hot meal and filling out an application for affordable housing. Before the event, she says she never thought she qualified for housing benefits. Now, Lancaster encourages others in the community to reach out to better their lives.
“I just want to.. you know, I just want to have my future in place. I’m not young anymore. I’m not going to wait ‘till, you know what I mean.. until I am sitting on the curb with everything I own, just going ‘Now what do I do?’ You just have to think about it, and take advantage of this kind of thing. People don’t like to talk about their needs, but nobody can read your mind. You have to tell people if you need help. You can’t let pride stand in the way of having a good life.”
Carter says that over 250 community members were served and counted at the Salvation Army today, as were many more out in the streets who could not find a way to the event.