By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin’s city committee tabbed to study homelessness remedies is still working after five years and has found itself taking a different approach than members once thought it would.
Originally appointed to plan a homeless shelter and transitional homes for those seeking more permanent homes, the committee believes those questions are being addressed in other ways.
A Joplin ministry, Watered Gardens, has expanded its services to include temporary shelter.
Terry Wachter, co-chairwoman of the city committee called Headed for Home, said that shelter and the long-established Souls Harbor are handling that need now.
Additionally, the Salvation Army is working on a transitional housing program.
“Every now and then I say there were some gifts that came in that wind,” Wachter said, referring to the 2011 tornado. “One was the opportunity by the Salvation Army to create a larger housing project than it had originally planned. It is large enough it could cover the permanent supportive housing of the original city plan. But it takes a long time to get it together, planned, approved and financed. We’re waiting to see where that goes.”
After reorganizing the committee last winter because a number of its members had been involved in tornado recovery work and were not available for committee meetings, remaining members began talking about prevention of homelessness, Wachter said.
“Our team has chosen to learn about and become involved in the Bridges Out of Poverty” program being organized locally by the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas.
Wachter said a number of agencies involved in providing services to people in need are involved in discussions about the program, which is being used in other areas across the United States.
Kate Massey of the United Way said it is a program in which people whose income restrictions place them in jeopardy of homelessness work with a group of mentors, called allies, to maintain housing and improve their economic situation.
The mentoring groups are called Circles.
“The Circles Campaign is all about creating stability in life,” Massey said. If it is restricted income that causes instability, the circles can work on that.
“We hope that it works for both those experiencing homelessness now and for those who may experience it in the future,” Massey said.
The United Way has obtained the first year’s funding to start the program and is hiring the staff it needs to set it up.
Details of the program, along with volunteer opportunities to work in it, will be announced, Massey said.
That’s where Wachter believes the city committee will focus its future efforts.
“We’re all learning about how we can be a contributing partner in it while we’re waiting on the Salvation Army program,” Wachter said of the Bridges program.
“We don’t need an additional shelter. Sheltering isn’t the answer.”
THE BRIDGES OUT OF POVERTY program has reduced the use of social services in Bartlesville, Okla., by more than a third, according to Terry Wachter with the Joplin committee studying homelessness.