Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens says the lack of crises shelter facilities in the city is at a critical state, announcing Wednesday the formation of a task force to boost the short-term assistance options for families.
The Mayor’s Task Force on Crisis Sheltering consists of 13 community members, who are tasked with bringing back recommendations within 60 days of its first meeting.
Stephens says the city has 48 units available for direct placement into emergency or transitional shelter for families with children.
“Now if the 48 units that we have are already occupied, and they are as you might guess most of the time, the family has few options to go to. They can live in their car if they have one. They can go couch surfing if they have friends or support group around.”
Or they can be split up, Stephens says. For example, the father goes to Victory Mission, which houses men on emergency basis, the mother goes to Safe to Sleep, and the child to Isabel’s House.
“And at a time where they’ve lost the structure of their housing, having us mess up the structure of their family is not helpful to any of the folks in the family,” Stephens said.
Speaking from the Busch Municipal Building’s main lobby, Stephens referenced the 533 documented homeless households with children in Springfield, and the more than 800 students in Springfield Public Schools who identify as homeless.
Charlie O’Reilly and Lynn Thompson will co-chair the task force. Thompson, a Springfield business owner who has worked with the Continuum of Care (CoC) program, spoke at Wednesday’s press conference.
“To not have a place to stay with a family, just put yourself in that situation. Put yourself in a situation where you have two or three kids and you don’t where you’re gonna sleep tonight.”
Janet Dankert is a task force member and executive director of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks. CPO runs One Door, Springfield’s point of entry for homeless services, to provide assessments and referrals to shelter-related services in Greene, Christian, and Webster counties.
“I think we get busy provided services and don’t always think about letting the community know where we are with resources,” Dankert said. “And so we just took a look at last year’s numbers and within our internal staff realize that, ‘Wow, we had over 500 families that came to us last year that we couldn’t place in shelter. The community needs to know this.’”
For fiscal year 2015, One Door reported over 5,200 requests for shelter assistance, which includes duplicates. Of that number, half represents households with children.
The task force report is to identify specific recommendations to provide additional crisis shelter units for families and/or reduce the number of families placed in a crisis situation. The goal is the meet the current need while a long-range plan is developed.
While the Mayor’s Task Force on Crisis Sheltering is not assigned the responsibility to develop the community’s long-range housing/sheltering plan, recommendations are welcome.
• Charlie O’Reilly (Co-chair)
• Lynn Thompson (Co-chair)
• Rev. Ken Chumbley, Christ Episcopal Church
• Janet Dankert, Community Partnership of the Ozarks
• Andrew Garton, The Network
• David Jayne, Central Assembly
• Russ Marquart, Central Bank of the Ozarks
• Debi Meeds, United Way of the Ozarks
• Marty Moore, Springfield Public Schools
• Ruscell Pavlin, Community Member
• Mary Kay Ross, Community Member
• Don Simpson, Missouri State University
• Mike White, Mayor’s Commission on Children