The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 4, 2013

Joplin's homelessness committee studying program

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.”

Program

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.

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    Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
    The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
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    Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
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    Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
    “Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
    The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
    “We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
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