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This coming Monday, Springfield City Council will be considering whether to declare an “economic calamity." That would allow the city to expand the way it helps the ever-growing homeless population. KSMU’s Theresa Carter spoke with city officials and files this report.
With unemployment still on the rise and many families facing difficult financial times, the homeless population in and around Springfield is rapidly growing. As winter temperatures begin to dip it is no longer safe to stay outdoors.
Local shelters are quickly reaching their capacity and unable to provide enough aid to those in need. The council meeting Monday night will consider a resolution that would lift zoning restrictions for shelters. This would mean churches, schools and other public facilities might also be used to provide emergency shelter for the homeless. Ralph Rognstad is the Director of Planning for the City of Springfield.
"This would relax the code and we would then work with churches, organizations, and individuals who would want to house the homeless. But we would still have criteria in place to make sure that they are creating a safe enviroment."
If the resolution passes Rognstad explains how long the declaration will last.
"This would extend to May 1, 2010, or until we would experience two consecutive months where unemployment would be 5% or less," he said.
Rognstad says the Council of Churches of the Ozarks has expressed interest in helping to provide shelter for the homeless, if the city does declare an economic calamity.
For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Carter.