By Debby Woodin
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Networks that evolved from work to find homes for displaced tornado victims could help Joplin’s Headed for Home Committee create a plan for how to help the chronic homeless without building a multimillion-dollar intake center.
That was the discussion Wednesday at a meeting of the panel, which also agreed to reorganize to finish its task for the city.
The Headed for Home Committee was appointed by the Joplin City Council more than four years ago to put together a plan for housing the homeless. That plan eventually was to drafted to include emergency shelter, and then transitional and permanent housing.
An intake center where people could be assessed for needs was previously identified as something the city could provide, and funds were pledged for that purpose.
Now, though, the organizations and agencies that supply assistance and social services for the homeless have found a variety of resources to provide places to live, a network to help provide jobs, and referrals for other assistance if needed.
Pastor Dan Wermuth of the Joplin Family Worship Center and the Joplin Ministerial Alliance suggested to the committee that some of the methods used to refer those rendered homeless by the tornado — the crisis homeless — to housing could be used to help with the problem of chronic homelessness as well. He said the committee might want to consider how to identify and join together the systems and relationships of organizations that worked for the crisis. One of those was allowing charity organizations to work as case managers to identify the issues that keep people homeless and refer them to resolutions as well as helping to locate a place to live.
Headed for Home Committee Co-chairwoman Terry Wachter of Mercy Health said, “For us, the tornado was a game changer.” A proposed housing project by the Joplin Salvation Army to provide transitional housing is one program that could address the issues with which the committee was called on to propose a resolution.
Also being scrutinized is the issue of generational poverty, which can lead to homelessness, said Jay St. Clair of College Heights Christian Church. He told the committee about a program being discussed by the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas, “Bridges Out of Poverty,” that teams residents with people who need to identify what they could do to bring themselves out of the cycle of poverty.
Before the “Headed for Home” team can reach any conclusions, though, it needs to reorganize, the members said. Wachter said that a number of those appointed to serve on the committee have been working in other capacities with the tornado recovery and may not have time to continue with the committee.
Unless the committee reduces its ranks, it faces the lack of a quorum, which prevents it from taking votes and pursuing any conclusions it reaches.
Wermuth suggested that an email be sent out to all committee members asking if they intend to serve any further. If there is no response, or members indicate they can no longer serve, the committee could be reduced to the number of people necessary to complete the work so that a voting quorum could be achieved.
Committee members agreed informally to proceed with that as it works toward defining what it needs to do to fulfill its mission and the “Headed for Home” plan it had previously adopted.
The Headed for Home Committee began with 15 members, and there are about eight who still attend meetings.