Springfield nonprofit attempts homeless outreach, but many turn away from help
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A Springfield non-profit recently held a resource fair to help the homeless. But they didn’t get the turnout they expected.
Life 360 Community Services delivers after-school snacks to thousands of kids across the Ozarks, and works to support youth aging out of foster care. But moving a former grocery store earlier this year, they found another kind of need. A homeless community was living in their woods near Division and Glenstone in Springfield.
“Well that’s not our focus, of course, but we have a heart for people in that position as well,” said Jeremy Hahn, Life 360 Community Services executive vice president.
They wanted to help and root out potential criminal activity. “A lot of drug deals and other things were happening in our woods. And at some point, we have the responsibility to say, no more, not on our property,” Hahn says.
They called in several agencies that serve the homeless and organized a resource fair. They notified their neighbors in the woods about the opportunity and their plans to clear out the woods next month. The day of the event, they found only one man.
“He said, Well, they heard what you were doing and that you were providing resources, and they all moved out.” Hahn says. “They knew that you wanted to change things and they’ve all left.”
Those who serve the homeless, like The Kitchen, Inc., say it’s not uncommon for people to turn away from help.
The Kitchen Inc. CEO Meleah Spencer says, “There’s several reasons that fall into that. Mental health is a big concern, and mental health issues can keep them away from taking that next step for help. But also, there’s a lot of trust issues that go on.”
She says it may be because of past experiences with the system or a fear of losing their voice. They may also have trouble transitioning from survival mode.
“So you’re just trying to get your immediate needs taken care of minute by minute, and it’s really hard to see a different future and what that may look like. And fear could be holding them back,” Spencer says.
Though they were left disappointed, staff at Life360 know where to point their old neighbors, should they meet again.
“We now, are far more educated about what’s available in Springfield. And there is a lot of help and a lot of great people working on the front lines,” says Hahn.
“Whether it’s at The Kitchen or one of our other partner agencies, we’ll be ready to help them when they’re ready to make a positive change in their life,” Spencer says.
Life360 plans to start clearing out the woods the week of December 7.
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