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This month is Social Work Awareness month. It’s a time to focus on the work done by social workers across the country. Historically, there has been the general misconception that anybody whose job involves merely helping people can be called a "social worker." However, professionals in the social work field now have “title protection” in Missouri. That means in order to call yourself a social worker, you must have a degree in social work.
This afternoon, as part two of our three-part series, we’re profiling a young man on the path to achieving his dream of becoming a social worker so that he can make more of an impact among the homeless community. KSMU’s Melanie Foehrweiser has details.
[Sound: Cars Driving Down the Street]
As you drive down Commercial Street, it’s hard to miss the Missouri Hotel, long known as a shelter for the homeless. But it’s the little white virtually unmarked building next door where Jeremiah Moorhead works, and what goes on inside is anything but boring.
“I help run Bill’s Place, which is a drop in center for the homeless, where…just a place to get out of the weather, and drink coffee, do their laundry, take showers,” said Moorhead.
Moorhead is an outreach specialist with Burrell Homeless Services who works out of Bill’s Place. He’s currently working on getting his Master’s degree in Social Work from MSU. While Bill’s Place offers temporary shelter, Moorhead and the other case workers there offer clients a whole lot more.
“And then there’s a few of us caseworkers here that…try to point them in the right direction, act as resource people for them to get connected with whatever services they may need, whether it’s housing, employment, medical, psychiatric,” said Moorhead.
Moorhead says he worked in a different role for Burrell previously and sort of “fell into” this position. He says he definitely loves coming into contact with so many unique people with unique experiences.
“One of my favorite aspects of the job is just getting to hear their stories about everywhere they’ve been, and maybe those factors that have led them to become homeless and some of the more lighthearted aspects like hopping trains and things like that are stories I always find real interesting,” Moorhead said.
Moorhead also said it’s rewarding to help someone who has lived on the street find housing. He even helps them move in and find furniture when the time comes.
Thaddeus Gierlach is one of the people who has used Bill’s Place. He says Moorhead has definitely impacted his life for the better.
Gierlach took a friend’s advice and came to Bill’s Place in 2008 after he found himself homeless after a difficult divorce. That’s when he met Moorhead and one of the other caseworkers at Bill’s Place. Gierlach says they led him in the right direction.
“Got a place to live. Got a job. My health’s sort of going down…deteriorating, pretty quick and they helped me with that too. They helped me with bus passes, things like that; counseling. I made it through it and I’m back on my feet now, and doing real good,” said Gierlach.
While successful cases like this one can bring a smile to Moorhead’s face, he says the hardest part of his job is dealing with kids who are homeless, or who are affected by it in some way.
[Sound: door unlocking]
As the lunch hour ends at Bill’s Place and the doors are reopened, clients start to trickle back in, and Moorhead’s work begins again.
“You got any shaving cream?”
For KSMU News, I’m Melanie Foehrweiser.