New CEO for The Kitchen, Inc., shares passion to 'prevent and end' homelessness

Published: Oct. 26, 2017 at 3:37 PM CDT
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From the closure of the Missouri Hotel to the groundbreaking of a new shelter in its place, The Kitchen, Inc. has undergone many changes in recent years. The latest change is the hiring of a new CEO with a passion to do even more.

"Going through this housing first model is opening up opportunities for us to serve more people in our community," said Meleah Spencer, the newly-selected CEO of The Kitchen, Inc.

The 'housing first' model allows the group to place people in housing all around town. Right now there are some 70-80 landlords who work to make it happen, according to the organization.

"It's amazing. It's wonderful," said Belinda Harp, a client of The Kitchen, Inc., who moved into her own home just more than a month ago.

Homeless since 2011, Harp recently became one of The Kitchen, Inc.'s success stories.

"I was a nurse, and I got sick, and my FMLA and insurance and everything ran out, so I had no money to pay my rent for my apartment," she said.

Stories like Harp's provide the motivation for the job for the group's new CEO.

"I really try to put myself in their shoes," Spencer said.

Spencer said the work happening with The Kitchen, Inc. is personal for her.

"Obviously you can tell from my emotions that I have a place in my heart that I really want to prevent and end homelessness," Spencer said.

The hope is to educate the community about the work The Kitchen, Inc. does, including its new emergency shelter, under construction now, and permanent housing initiative.

"We as a community, what we can do is support programs, support agencies that are coming together like the kitchen, and we can come together to support them to make sure we are providing the resources for those individuals that need that help," Spencer said.

The youth services arm of the organization, Rare Breed, is having an open house November 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. at 301 N. Main Avenue in Springfield, Mo. Spencer said she plans to be at the event and welcomes feedback from the community. Spencer officially starts her new job with the organization in mid-November.