Over 600 homeless and at-risk individuals were given access to basic needs through a number of services Wednesday.
The ninth annual HOPE Connection and Veterans Stand Down event was held in the Springfield Expo Center. It’s an initiative of Community Partnership’s Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness’ month-long “Every Action Counts Campaign.”
Amanda Stadler, Community Partnership’s neighborhood and housing stabilization specialist, said she’s participated in the event for five years, chairing the planning committee the past two.
“The HOPE Connection (event) is my favorite day of the whole year,” said Stadler. “It’s just an incredible event. There are a couple of outcomes that (OAEH) likes to see out of it. One, that our guests that are here get connected with services. And I think the other outcome that we always hope for is just educating the community.”
Each guest participating in the event is paired with a volunteer, or “guide,” who walks them from booth to booth, addressing their needs and listening to their story. Over 400 guides volunteered.
The alliance hopes the campaign will promote agencies helping the homeless and encourage others to help. Stadler said while the guests are impacted by the event, the alliance hopes it’s also valuable for volunteers.
Buddy Ball has volunteered at the event for the past five years.
“Well the first thing I do is just ask them what they need,” Ball said. “Eyeglasses (are) a big deal and are in short supply here, so if they need eyeglasses we get them back there. Other than that my thing is flu shots and getting their feet treated, because everybody should have a flu shot and sometimes, they just want to come in, get a haircut and eat. So we suggest things that they probably should do.”
Jenora Allen was encouraged to volunteer through the program she’s involved with at Missouri State University. The senior nursing student was paired with Debbie, who preferred we not share her last name.
Debbie said grouping the supporting agencies in one area is a great help, because many of guests don’t have cars and don’t know how to get day-to-day assistance. Debbie couldn’t pay rent over the summer, and said in her 57 years, this is the first time she’s lived without shelter.
“Stuff like this going on helps everybody get to eat and drink and gives us hope,” she says.
Services offered Wednesday included health care resources like MSU Care, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Jordan Valley’s Community Clinic, among others. The Vision Rehabilitation Center of the Ozarks offered free vision screenings and the Missouri College of Cosmetology offered free haircuts. Other booths from around Springfield included the Salvation Army, Missouri Career Center, Southwest Center for Independent Living and the Missouri Department of Social Services’ Family Support Division.