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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Fifty-six homeless individuals in Springfield are one step closer to permanent housing today. As of 10 a.m., 28 individuals had received services at the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), with 21 of those coming from the Kearney camp. As of 4 p.m., the number had grown to 56, with 30 coming from the Kearney Street camp.
The Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness considers day 1 of a multi-agency response to Springfield’s largest homeless camp a success, says board member and former Springfield mayor Jim O’Neal.
The combination of developing a MARC, followed by enforcement and cleanup efforts is a new approach to ending homeless encampments in Springfield. The MARC model has been successful in cities nationwide, according to Robert Pulster, regional coordinator for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Pulster described Springfield’s MARC as a “commendable effort and one that has proven to be effective in many communities that is working to eliminate encampments.”
“We believe our ‘tough love’ approach is something that has not been tried in Springfield before and we are confident that this comprehensive and compassionate approach, mixed with the enforcement steps, will be successful,” O’Neal said, in an 11 a.m. briefing.
The enforcement O’Neal refers to is the follow-up enforcement of trespassing laws by Springfield Police Department and the proactive and assertive follow-up legal protocol for the City’s Building Development Services to ensure adequate clean up occurs to help prevent repopulation. Both require cooperation from property owners.
About 30 service agencies, led by the Community Partnership of the Ozarks and assisted by the City of Springfield and Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management, are providing services to homeless individuals evacuating the nearby camp and other camps in the area. The Springfield Police Department is maintaining a presence in the camp and at the MARC to ensure the safety of those both providing and receiving services.
The MARC will be open 7-11 a.m. and 2-6 p.m. daily June 5-9 at the Walmart at Kearney and Glenstone.
As the week progresses, outreach activities to other homeless camps and to panhandlers, continue. Officials recognize that some people exiting the Kearney camps may try to set up camp in other locations, but a proactive approach to talk with these individuals is leading to good early results.
O’Neal thanked Walmart, which graciously donated space on their private property for the mission.
Agencies providing assistance at the MARC include Jordan Valley Community Health Center, Mercy MSU Care Clinic, Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Burrell Behavioral Health Addiction Treatment Services, Convoy of Hope, Medicaid/food stamps, Springfield Homeless and Mental Health Courts, Missouri Job Center-Ozark Region, NAMI of Southwest Missouri, On eDoor, The Kitchen, crisis sheltering organizations, pet care and veterinary services and the Veterans Administration.
Food service and other basic needs are also being provided at the MARC thanks to Gathering Friends, Victory Mission, Convoy and National Avenue Christian Church.
Jennifer Cannon, founder of the Gathering Friends homeless outreach and advocacy group, said her homeless friends are pleasantly surprised by all the things available onsite at the MARC and the familiar faces they’re seeing there.
“We’re seeing about half (of the homeless individuals) who are service-resistant and half who are truly ready to take the hand up,” Cannon said.
The Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness has been working with the City and a multi-agency team of service providers since April to develop an action plan to address what became apparent to be several homeless camps located around the 2000 block of East Kearney.
“The large volume of calls for service in and around the area prompted the discussion and plan,” O’Neal said. “Make no mistake, while we think that any response must address the barriers individuals face that keep them in homelessness, we are very aware of the serious problems these camps have caused for nearby businesses and residential neighbors. We had to take decisive action. We will have to continue to take decisive action across the community.”
Shuttles and bus passes are being provided to area overnight shelters and to facilities of additional service providers in the attempt to stabilize the homeless individuals and guide them on a path toward self-sustainment.
“Community Partnership is thankful for all of the partners that have come together with the Alliance to bring real results for those in need while making a huge positive impact in our community,” said Michelle Garand, CPO deputy director for affordable housing and homelessness prevention.
About the Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness
The OAEH is the community’s designated continuum of care, funded in large part by the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). The alliance works to promote community-wide planning and strategic use of resources to address homelessness; improve coordination and integration with mainstream resources and other programs targeted to people experiencing homelessness.
MARC Day 1 by the numbers:
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For more information, contact City of Springfield Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement Cora Scott at 417-380-3352 or [email protected]