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Victory Mission trying to give men and women the tools they need to get out of poverty

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 6:37 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2022 at 6:56 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Victory Mission began in 1976 when Rev. and Mrs. Everett Cook handed out sandwiches and coffee from the back of their station wagon to the homeless population in downtown Springfield.

Now, 46 years later, that mission has grown to several other services, including trying to help people get out of poverty and stay out.

For most residents in the Springfield area, the only signs we see of the growing homeless population are people on street corners asking for money and homeless camps popping up all over town.

“There’s a lot of hopelessness,” said Jason Hynson, the Executive Director of the Victory Mission. “People don’t know where to go or what to do. Families are falling apart. Our counselor has seen about 400 men in the last four years, and 70 percent of them have experienced real trauma.”

Victory Mission has a 160-bed shelter for men just off Commercial Street, where those in need can stay in the emergency shelter for 30-days once every six months. But there’s also residential space for those serious about turning their lives around and working towards a more prosperous future. As Hynson puts it, it’s about giving them a hand-up, not a hand-out.

“What we tend to do sometimes is do stuff FOR people,” he said. “But at Victory, we want to do something WITH people. That means we’re together, and we say, ‘What do you want your life to look like?’”

That mission starts by building relationships with those who have been homeless or recently incarcerated and helping them develop the tools to find long-term work. The key to getting Victory Mission residents out of their downward cycle is a year-long restoration program where they learn about improving themselves through spiritual guidance, getting away from bad influences, and financial planning.

The residential walls are lined with photos and tales of success stories, as well as plaques with the names of those who have graduated from the restoration program. Hynson said about nine out of ten men who make it through the restoration program don’t return to their old lives.

“Now, getting them through that year, it’s up to them to stay,” he pointed out. “We’re going to challenge them so that when they have a problem, they’re not going back to friends who don’t believe in the same things that they want now.”

Daniel Whitaker works at the Victory Mission men’s shelter at the front desk, whose T-shirt tells the story of his past. It says, “Welcome felons, junkies, and saints,” Whitaker’s criminal past includes gun and drug charges.

“If I weren’t here, I’d be living my life in prison,” he said.

But now, he’s nine months into the 12-month restoration program and determined to finish it, although he admits it’s been a challenge.

“The hardest part is accountability,” Whitaker said. “Acknowledging my faults and ways of thinking. You know, I’d like to think my life out in the streets was pretty rough, but I’d say this is twice as hard as that. But it’s well worth it.”

Benjamin Torres, who once lived in the streets, now works in the kitchen at Victory Mission’s main administration offices, which also houses a 12-bed restoration program for women. And like many who pass through the Victory Mission program, he learned that every life has a purpose.

“You have to just say enough is enough,” Torres said of the point where he decided to get out of the homeless lifestyle. “I’ve been as low as you can go. But now, when I’m walking around and see some of the people I knew on the streets, they can tell I’m a different person. I tell them it’s because I’ve found hope, faith, and love. That’s what Victory Mission does for you. At the end of the day, you can say you’re finally home with a purpose.”

And those who have gone through the restoration program have also come to understand something that the rest of the world needs to understand.

“One of the biggest things society as a whole has a problem with today is ‘victim-stance,’” Whitaker said. “You know, the whole world has done something wrong, and it has got to make the change. Not me.”

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