Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Cape Girardeau Osage Center hosting Homeless Event connect on Oct. 5

Monday, September 17, 2012
The Revival Center in Jackson provides private rooms and three meals a day for the homeless. Photo by Nathan Hamilton

The Cape Girardeau Osage Center in partnership with the Governor's Committee to End Homelessness will host its fourth Homeless Connect event on Oct. 5 in hopes of raising awareness of the issue of homelessness in the area.

Public relations coordinator for the event Megan Ward said it is a "one-stop" event that will help homeless individuals and families with on-site medical care and many other social services.

Many of these "one-stop" services include food and clothing donations, access to shelter, help with childcare and employment, haircuts, vision testing, credit counseling, HIV and AIDS testing and for substance abuse and mental health screenings.

Transportation will be provided by a bus that will make four stops continuously around Cape Girardeau throughout the day.

Contact Homeless Connect Community Chair Natalie Sandoval and the Community Caring Counsel for more information about where the stops will be located.

Committee manager for the project Heather Bradley-Geary said they selected Cape Girardeau because it had a high point-in-time count for homeless individuals, which is a count done in one day across the state of Missouri. She said she expects a good turnout.

"We have had success in other events across Missouri," Bradley-Geary said. "In Sedalia we had our biggest success when over 370 homeless individuals showed up. At the other events, about 200 or 300 people showed up. We wanted to make this event a place for the homeless to come and get immediate results, not just a voucher. We want the people to leave with something tangible."

The Missouri Balance of State Continuum of Care completed a point-in-time survey of sheltered and unsheltered homeless in the state of Missouri. The organization found that there are approximately 1,469 homeless individuals and 645 recorded unsheltered homeless people in the state.

According to the survey, the leading age group in both sheltered and unsheltered homelessness is individuals who are 18 through 45. More than 50 percent of sheltered homeless and 32 percent of unsheltered homeless are between those ages.

There are three active homeless shelters in the Cape Girardeau area: New Beginnings House of Refuge in Cape Girardeau, Amen Center in Delta, Mo., and the Revival Center in Jackson, Mo.

Rev. Joyce Hungate runs the Revival Center in Jackson. It is a 40-room estate that offers private rooms and three meals per day. She said that the issue of homelessness in Cape Girardeau is mainly about the need for jobs.

"Most of the people I get want to work," Hungate said. "They stay here temporarily until they get on their feet."

Her center usually houses large families between jobs, recently divorced individuals, people from the Gibson Center and Teen Challenge who are recovering from drug addiction and elderly people who cannot afford or do not want to go to nursing homes.

Cape Girardeau Salvation Army case manager Tina Rodgers said that affordable housing is the largest issue affecting the homeless in the Cape Girardeau area.

"Defining homelessness is a huge issue because it depends if people are on the street are staying with people," Rodgers said. "There are spaces at the shelters, but some people just don't take them. I know a lot of homeless people. They often don't want to be known. A lot of them are families. And many of the issues that cause this are mental health and drug abuse."

Rodgers said that she knows many families who are too big to afford adequate housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers monetary housing assistance to low income individuals. Rodgers said the problem is the waiting list is two years long and government assistance also has strict guidelines for eligible household incomes, limiting help to larger families.

"If you have a big enough family, you just can't make it on $7 or $8 an hour," Rodgers said. "But many people make too much to get state assistance."

According to Rodgers, those individuals who do work may still end up homeless anyway because they cannot pay their bills on minimum wage. She said that the way that government assistance works, it makes it hard for low income individuals and families to obtain adequate housing, which causes them to become homeless.

Tom Davisson from the Career Counsel Center in Cape Girardeau said that Homeless Connect is searching for volunteers. Individuals who are interested should go to their web page and fill out a volunteer form.