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According to Springfield’s 2013 point in time homeless count data, on any given night, 711 people in Springfield are homeless. That includes 350 single adults, 50 veterans, 425 families and 163 children. Together with the rising poverty rate, homelessness is one the most difficult issues we are facing as a community.
The City of Springfield greatly appreciates the faith-based and other non-profit organizations that have stepped up to assist with addressing the important necessity of providing stable housing for the under resourced. While the City has minimum public safety standards in place for institutions wishing to assist with sheltering, we are happy to work with any community group wishing to pursue providing shelter to individuals who are homeless.
The City has been at the forefront in trying to improve the living situations for those less fortunate for many years and with a specific focus over the last two years. We also support activities, such as the awareness march as long as accurate information about the issue is being shared and that it is not conducted in such a way as to exploit under-resourced individuals. Not all of the answers for these complicated issues are coming from one place. It takes the entire community to work together to improve the situation.
On March 30, 2016, Springfield's Continuum of Care sent a letteraddressed to City Council thanking the City for its efforts to support homeless services in the community.
Below is a summary of the City’s various programs to address poverty and assist those experiencing homelessness.
Impacting Poverty CommissionIn addition to playing a major role on the Impacting Poverty Commission (impactingpoverty.org) the City Manager co-chaired the 30-plus member commission that studied the issue of poverty for more than 18 months and is currently working on several initiatives to address housing-related issues and numerous other City department heads also served).
Homeless CourtThe Municipal Court, along with partners the Springfield Police Department, the City Prosecutor’s Office, Legal Services of Southwest Missouri and community homeless services agencies such as Burrell Behavioral Health, The Kitchen Inc., and Clarity Recovery, created Springfield’s Homeless Court about a year ago. The court aims to remove one such obstacle on the path out of homelessness: unresolved legal issues.
Modeled after the first homeless court program in the nation, created in San Diego in 1989, Springfield’s Homeless Court convenes at 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month in a conference room at The Kitchen, 1630 N. Jefferson.
“Homeless Court is a special court session for homeless defendants to resolve outstanding nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, fines and warrants within the City of Springfield’s Municipal Court,” says Annie Busch, former co-chair of Springfield’s Homeless Task Force.
More information about Homeless Court is available here.
Zone BlitzThe City is preparing to launch what is known as “Zone Blitz” to address issues surrounding poverty in northwest Springfield following a listening tour of nine neighborhoods. More information is available at springfieldmo.gov/zoneblitz.
Affordable Housing Center and Loan ProgramThe City continues to support and help fund One Door and partners with Community Partnership of the Ozarks on the Affordable Housing Center: theaffordablehousingcenter.org.
The Affordable Housing Center, which opened in June 2013, offers the community direct access to key housings service providers including, the Springfield Community Land Trust, One Door, the Housing Authority, Veterans' Administration, Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri and more. Each of these agencies provides important steps and services in the continuum of care for people seeking stability and affordable housing solutions.
"The City's support for the Springfield Affordable Housing Center is in keeping with our effortsto work with homeless service providers, One Door, the Springfield Community Land Trust,food pantries and others who assist those in need. Springfield is a giving community with aheart, and we want to do what we can to help those who need affordable housing, whether it's the homeless or those just needing a hand up," said Springfield City Manager Greg Burris.
The City offers several loan/grant programs for affordable housing via the Planning & Development department. More information is available here.
Mayor’s Task Force on Crisis ShelteringMayor Bob Stephens announced the formation of the Mayor's Task Force on Crisis Sheltering task force last fall. He described the number of people in need of immediate shelter in Springfield as “mind boggling,” and said the lack of crisis shelter facilities has reached a crisis level. For the purposes of the task force, crisis sheltering was defined as overnight shelter for 30 days or less.
Based upon the best practice and national trend information, information shared in presentations and several brainstorming sessions, the 17-member task force issued its report recently.
Police and Public Works Homeless Camp ProtocolThe City of Springfield, Springfield Police Department and Community Partnership of the Ozarks’ One Door (a nonprofit agency working to prevent and end homelessness in Greene and Webster Counties) continue to work together to assist individuals who must be notified they needed to move from locations (this happens most often when private property owners complain about “campers” trespassing on their property).
Officers with Springfield Police Department’s Community Services Section and One Door coordinators meet with individuals and work with them to assist with finding a new location to live and to move their physical belongings.
SPD began working directly with One Door in 2014 after the City of Springfield created a protocol for moving homeless camps that officials believe is the “most humane” way to address the issue of homeless individuals living on private property against the owners’ wishes.
The protocol specifically calls for agencies and advocates who provide services to the homeless to be contacted once an order to vacate has been given. This gives them an opportunity to work with the homeless campers in situations where they must be removed from either public property or private property (if the landowner makes a request).
The protocol also allows that those needing to move will have a minimum of 24 hours to do so. We have an amazing network of people working in our community to alleviate the suffering of the under-resourced and homeless. We want to give them the opportunity to do the fine work they do.
When the Springfield Police Department feels an after-move clean up is necessary for a public site, they will notify the City of Springfield Public Works Department of the location of the camp and confirm a minimum of a 24-hour notice has been issued to the campers. The Public Works Department will schedule a clean up of the location after the 24-hour notice has expired. This time gap will ensure homeless campers have sufficient time to move and/or retrieve any desired items.
Any such clean-up of private property is the responsibility of the property owner.
“The City is thankful for the ongoing attention to the issues of poverty and homeless in Springfield, and that many smart people continue to put their heads together to help improve the situation. This is truly a very caring community,” said Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement Cora Scott.
For more information, contact: Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, 417-864-1009 (office) | 417-380-3352 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org.