The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 8, 2013

Our View: Helping the homeless

The Joplin Globe

— A committee named five years ago to study Joplin’s homeless plight was organized and handed a vision of building shelters and transitional homes.

Then along came the tornado, and Joplin found a new kind of can-do attitude.

That new attitude, in our view, is responsible for the shift in thinking about the homeless and the role that faith-based groups and not-for-profits are taking as opposed to local government.

Soon, the community will hear more from the city committee called Headed for Home and learn about a program that’s being used nationally called Bridges Out of Poverty.

So what’s different today than it was five years ago? First of all, we talk to each other. Rather than islands of services, the May 2011 tornado forced the region to examine its resources.

Joplin ministry, Watered Gardens, in recent times has expanded its services to include a temporary shelter.

That shelter, coupled with the long established Souls Harbor, meets the need.

The Salvation Army is working on transitional housing.

Now the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas are studying the program Bridges Out of Poverty.

Terry Wachter, a co-chairwoman of the committee, says additional shelters aren’t needed, nor are shelters the answer to fixing a culture of homelessness.

James Whitford, the director of Watered Gardens, recently wrote a guest column on redefining poverty and why there are times when government subsidies can alleviate poverty but rarely do they resolve poverty.

In most cases, we agree. The homeless will always be with us and as good stewards of our community and mankind, part of all our roles is to provide a hand up.

Alcoholism, drug addiction, joblessness and mental illness all play a role in creating our homeless population.

There is no cure-all, no easy answers.

But warehousing the homeless is obviously not a solution.  

We are eager to hear more about ways to tackle the problem of homelessness, which at one point seemed like it was going to nowhere.