The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

April 17, 2013

Summit focuses on best practices, awareness for homelessness issue

PITTSBURG, Kan. — For one hour, Lee Ann Spencer was thrust into poverty.

She was given a pretend identity, limited resources of money, food and transportation, a pretend husband who had been laid off from his job, and three pretend children. She was told to work with them to figure out how to survive.

It wasn’t enough time, she said, to truly understand those who live in such situations every day, but it was a start.

“In real life, I work for a charity and we are on the front line, so we see people just like the ones we have been assigned to play in this exercise,” said Spencer, who works at the Labette County Emergency Assistance Center in Parsons.

Spencer was one of 155 people from Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma who gathered this week for a three-day summit in Pittsburg to put the spotlight on homelessness. The summit included the group role-playing exercise in which Spencer participated.

“One of our founding tenets is to raise awareness and break down stereotypes,” said Doug Wallace, with the Kansas Statewide Homeless Coalition, which headed up the event. “When I grew up, I thought about a guy on a park bench who was scary looking, a bum, lazy.

“But homelessness has many different faces. Some go to work every day. Some have families. I know a guy who lived in the trees in a tent who got up every morning at 6 a.m. and went to day labor at a full-time job.”

At the coalition’s last count, more than 200 homeless individuals in Southeast Kansas were employed full time.

RURAL HOMELESSNESS

A “point in time” count conducted by the state coalition in January found that since 2011, homelessness in Crawford County has tripled. In the seven counties of Southeast Kansas, it has doubled, said Becky Gray of SEK-CAP Inc., which joined with the coalition to be the host of the three-day summit.

Homelessness is difficult to count in absolutes, she said, “because there also is a subset of people who are ‘doubled up,’ or living with other families.”

“These people are considered by HUD to be ‘precariously housed,’ meaning they could become truly unsheltered at any moment,” she said. “This is what rural homelessness looks like.”

The count found that 60 percent of homeless individuals in Southeast Kansas were women, and of that number almost half reported they were pregnant. More than one out of every three, or 36 percent, were children.

“Of the seven-county area, Crawford County had the most homeless people, and that was followed by Labette and Montgomery counties,” Gray said.

About one-quarter of those counted were employed, and they worked an average of 24 hours a week. About 25 percent said loss of employment led to their homelessness. The top reported contributing factors for homelessness were loss of employment, a lack of affordable housing, eviction and medical expenses.

In Missouri, the Homeless Coalition of Jasper and Newton Counties does homeless counts each January and July. They vary with the weather and other factors, but since 2007, the area has consistently had between 300 and 400 homeless people. The number spiked to 457 in January 2011.

Tammy Walker, a member of the coalition, said the count climbed to 848 in January 2012, but that included people who were living in the temporary housing units provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the May 22, 2011, tornado.

That latter number fell to 43 in January, the latest count, when the total was 371.

“There is a lot of housing coming back, but there is still a need for families who have a lot of barriers to being housed,” Walker said.

Like Wallace in Kansas, Walker said people often think of the homeless as the single man living on the streets or out of his car, but that is not the case. Many of the homeless are families who for various reasons, including economic factors and poor rental histories, do not have a permanent home.

“There are a lot of children included in the count,” she said.

Text Only
Top Stories
  • 041714 School safe rooms4_72.jpg Joplin school district readies community safe rooms for storm season

    Thousands of Joplin residents will soon be able to stay safe during storms in some of the region’s newest shelters. Community safe rooms at Cecil Floyd, Stapleton, McKinley and Eastmorland elementary schools, which double as gymnasiums, and Junge Field, which will double as a field house, are expected to be open within the next few weeks, according to Mike Johnson, the school district’s director of construction.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Public hearing set on posed TIF district

    Financial details of a proposed new tax increment financing district for the Silver Creek Galleria area will be discussed in detail at an April 28 public hearing, members of the city’s TIF Commission were told Thursday. Chris Williams, a TIF attorney representing the city of Joplin, told the panel the Thursday meeting was intended to walk commissioners through the public hearing steps.

    April 17, 2014

  • 041714 Treble Makers.jpg Carl Junction ‘Treble Makers’ to sing at Springfield Cardinals’ stadium

    Next month, 75 Carl Junction sixth-grade students will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Hammons Field before a Springfield Cardinals game. And with more than 600 parents, family members and other residents planning to attend, the May 3 event has been dubbed “Carl Junction Day.”

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Volunteer projects spark two bills in Jefferson City

    Bills moving through the Missouri House and Senate were inspired by a volunteer project in Carl Junction last year that stalled over a question of whether those volunteers had to be paid prevailing wage under Missouri law. “This bill is very simple. All it says is if someone is a volunteer, they won’t be forced to be paid prevailing wage,” state Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, told lawmakers during a hearing on his bill last week.

    April 17, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Friday’s Joplin Globe.

    April 17, 2014

  • More volunteers, donations sought for ‘Victory 4 Haiti’

    The second meals-for-Haiti project, scheduled for April 26, is in need of donations and volunteers, organizers say. “Victory 4 Haiti,” a food-packaging event that will provide meals to the Haitian Christian Mission in the village of Fond-Parisien and elsewhere in Haiti, needs $60,000 to pay for about 280,000 meals.

    April 16, 2014

  • TIF proposal filed for development of area at 44th Street and Range Line

    Joplin’s Tax Increment Financing Commission will hold an informational meeting today on a proposal to establish a TIF district to pay for a wetlands project on property in the area of 44th Street and Range Line, where a developer wants to build a retail, office and hospitality district.

    April 16, 2014

  • 041614 MDOT5_72.jpg JATSO recommends 15 road projects for planning

    The reconstruction of the Highway 171/Interstate 49 interchange at Carthage and the construction of a limited-access highway on the west side of Joplin and Carl Junction are among the top highway projects to be identified by the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization.
     

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin city attorney takes job in Lee’s Summit

    City Attorney Brian Head will leave his Joplin post next month for a job in Lee’s Summit in suburban Kansas City. Head submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday morning to Mayor Mike Seibert and the City Council. The council is his employer.

    April 16, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Thursday’s Joplin Globe.

    April 16, 2014