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Where Will the Homeless Go When the Temperature Drops?

Although the weather has been unseasonably warm so far this fall, winter is just around the corner.  For those who are homeless, the question of where to go for shelter becomes harder to answer. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann talks with local organizations to see where the homeless can go when the temperature begins to drop.

Where do the homeless go when all of the shelters are full?  That’s a question on many minds one week after the Reverend Larry Rice pitched tents for the homeless in a central Springfield parking lot.

A number of public, private and non-profit organizations have begun working together to come up with a long-term strategy to help the homeless. Vince Crunk is a spokesman for the city of Springfield. He says the city addressed the shortage of shelters and housing through a recent resolution.  The resolution, which passed in October, allows churches to shelter the homeless, regardless of zoning district limitations.

 “The city’s role, that was something City Council felt like, this is how we can take action to improve the situation, to make it easier.  But the city itself, you know, we’re not in a position to open shelters.  We do not provide direct shelter or social services in that way,” Crunk says.

Knowing just where to go and what services are available can be difficult.  Michelle McCoy is director for One Door—that’s a program that tries to connect homeless with the services they specifically need.

One of those services is finding a roof and a blanket when it gets cold. 

 “We are a central intake point for accessing the shelters in town.  We are also a resource and referral agency; sort of a clearinghouse.  We network with all of the other social service agencies, churches, etcetera and keep tabs on who is doing what as far as a variety of things,” says McCoy.

McCoy says that two churches will provide shelters for homeless adults without families this winter. East Sunshine Church of Christ shelters single men any night the temperature is 32 degrees or below.

Safe to Sleep –Women’s Overnight Shelter provides a bed for up to 12 women each night in apartments provided by The Kitchen.  That shelter is open daily, regardless of the temperature.

Romona Baker is resource coordinator for homeless services at Council of Churches of the Ozarks.  She says that Safe to Sleep will be moving to Pathways United Methodist Church as of December 1st, allowing it to double its capacity.

“Well, we see it as being open indefinitely.  When we started it in October, the idea was to simply provide a place for women to get inside.  What we found was there were numerous women that were on the street just two days or three days.  Very ordinary women.  Every story is a little different,” Baker says.

Baker emphasizes that both Safe to Sleep and the East Sunshine Church of Christ are only for single adults.

Families with children have different options.  Baker says when shelters are full, the homeless are given hotel vouchers until transitional housing can be located.  Baker says when the temperature drops to a 14 degree wind-chill, the Salvation Army opens up its facility, which houses men, women and families.  And when the Salvation Army shelter opens, the other two shelters close—this is so that the shelters don’t drain each other’s resources and volunteers.

You can find a link to more information about various services, volunteer opportunities, or ways to get involved below.  KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.