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Springfield City Council Declares Housing and Economic Calamity

Area churches and other organizations are considering ways to help the homeless now that the Springfield city council has cleared the way for them to do so. KSMU’s Matt Evans has more.

Homeless shelters across Springfield are reaching their capacity and with cold winter months ahead the shelters will see even more homeless people at their doors. To aid some of these shelters, the Springfield city council declared a housing and economic calamity which will temporarily allow churches and other organizations to take in homeless people without having the zoning ordinance requirements of a shelter. That’s Ralph Rognstad, the director of planning with the city of Springfield.

“We have high unemployment and as a result of the high unemployment we are seeing people who are homeless on the street.”

The current unemployment rate in Greene County is 8.3% that’s up nearly two percent from last December.

Mark Struckoff is the interim executive director of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks and he says he’s talked with some churches in Springfield about their plans after the economic calamity was declared.

“They’re certainly ready and willing to do the right thing. They’re sort of in some ways waiting to find out what’s the best thing they can do; whether that’s to actually open their doors or to raise some money to provide temporary housing through a hotel voucher.”

The declaration of the economic calamity isn’t a permanent solution, but Struckhoff says a task force of representatives from area shelters and other organizations is in place to find one.

“I’m very optimistic that that task force will work on not only an immediate answer to the homelessness situation now, but a long term answer.’’

The economic calamity will last until May 1, 2010, or until the unemployment rate reaches 5% for two consecutive months.

For KSMU News, I’m Matt Evans.