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City of Springfield helping fund tiny trailers and other cold weather shelters for homeless

Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 6:37 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -

The city of Springfield is adding $95,000 in emergency funding for overnight cold-weather sheltering in an attempt to help the area’s homeless population.

“We’ve been in contact with a lot of front line providers in our community and had different conversations about the need,” City Manager Jason Gage said in a news release. “The idea is to open up more units immediately, very quickly for those that are homeless, because we still have quite a bit of winter left, as we all know.”

According to the release, the breakdown of funds is:

  • $25,500 for staffing
  • $10,000 for leasing additional space for cold weather shelters which is in the process of being determined
  • $60,000 for 10 additional campers at Revive 66 Campground to be designated as crisis cold-weather shelters each year for up to 10 years.

That $60,000, the majority of the money, is being used to purchase “tiny trailers” at a new campground that organizers hope to have open by early next month. Located on West Chestnut Expressway, Revive 66 will have a Route 66 theme with vintage cars and signs decorating its fenced-in lot.

The teardrop campers, just big enough for a bed, can be rented for $10 by homeless people to stay overnight, although officials are hoping that the $10 fee will actually be covered by donations from area businesses or individuals.

“These (campers) are all solar powered. They have cell phone chargers,” said Nate Schlueter, the Chief Visionary Officer for the Gathering Tree, the non-profit organization in charge of the campground. “We’ll be showing movies at 8 o’clock every night projecting them off the storm shelter where we can really build (a sense of) community for the hours that you’re here.”

“They all have a mattress, linens,” added Lisa Brown, who founded the Gathering Tree along with her husband David. “And at the very back of it there’s a shelf so they can put their belongings and these doors lock so they’ll be safe.”

Through private donations the eventual goal is to have over 50 trailers available. There were just 12 on order until the city kicked in $60,000 to add 10 more.

“Which is huge,” Brown said. “So now we have 22 of these teardrops in production in Joplin and hopefully we’ll get at least part of them in the next week or two.”

“We’re happy the city is partnering with us towards the common vision that we all have,” Schlueter added. “Which is a city where no one sleeps outside.”

Gathering Tree is the same non-profit organization that started Eden Village, a tiny home community for the homeless. The demand for these homes is so great, with 170 on the waiting list, that the idea for tiny trailers was launched. The campers are not intended as permanent homes. The campground will only be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. but the facilities will include a trailer with bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities.

That aspect of the campground is one of the more important amenities for folks who live on the streets.

“When you’re homeless the two things that are hardest to get besides food are a shower and clean clothes,” said Jonathan Fisher, a Gathering Tree employee who was once homeless himself. “That’s the game changer. Having a fresh, clean set of clothes to put on and a nice shower means that when you leave here in the morning that you can go and look for a job.”

Fisher was among those who lived in one of Eden Village’s tiny homes when he began his road to sobriety.

“I was homeless for about three years,” he recalled. “I spiraled downhill, starting using drugs, became addicted to methamphetamine.”

So he knows just how much of a difference even a tiny trailer can make.

“You don’t have to worry about freezing to death on the street in the middle of the night,” he said.

And one thing everyone working with the project is well aware of is that the need is there.

“We get five to six inbound calls a day of people ready to stay here,” Schlueter said.

“It hurts because we can’t do it fast enough,” Brown said. “For us to go home and get in a warm bed while our friends go out in this weather and hide, we’ve got to do something. It’s God’s project.”

“It’s a means to give somebody a hand up and not a hand out,” Fisher added. “And to maybe impact their life in a way they need to turn some things around for themselves.”

The city of Springfield allocates approximately $10,000 each year to crisis cold-weather sheltering. In fiscal year 2020-2021, the City allocated over $818,354 in rent assistance and other homeless prevention services. The City is currently in the process of allocating an estimated $600,000 of additional CARES Act funding for rent assistance and other homeless prevention services.

About Springfield’s crisis cold-weather shelters

Springfield’s overnight crisis cold-weather shelters operate between Nov. 1 and March 31. Openings are based on whether the National Weather Service forecasts overnight (10 p.m.-4 a.m.) temperatures at 32 degrees or below. Shelters announce by 2:30 p.m. each day if they will be open that night. East Sunshine Church of Christ, 3721 E. Sunshine, First Unitarian Universalist Church, 2434 E. Battlefield, Hope Church, 2121 S. Blackman Road (through Jan. 31) and The Salvation Army’s Harbor House serve as crisis cold-weather shelters for men while Grace United Methodist Church, 600 S. Jefferson, serves women.

Veterans Coming Home, 806 N. Jefferson, has extended its hours to serve as an evening warming site and as the pick-up site for transportation via City Utilities buses to the men’s shelters. Women can access shelter at Grace UMC by City Utilities bus line 22.

Crisis sheltering for children is available year-round through Isabel’s House and Great Circle.

Overnight volunteers are needed for the shelters. Visit http://www.cpozarks.org/coldweather/ to learn more and complete a volunteer interest form.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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