In America, the greatest nation on Earth, an average of 3.5 million people experience a period of homelessness each year. Of these, 35% are families with children, and 23% are military veterans. The modern era of homelessness can be tied back to the 1980's when the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) suffered major budget cuts. Homelessness in America, however, is documented as far back as the mid-1600's. Hawaii, New York, and California have the highest rates of homelessness, but this problem touches every state and every community in some way.
Homelessness exists for many reasons, but is driven primarily buy social, economic, and health-related reasons. Studies have suggested that many people experience homelessness after fighting years of poverty, domestic relationship issues, drug abuse, and mental health issues. There is also a recent emergence of folks over the age of 50 who are homeless, bringing even more challenges to an already unmanaged problem.
Callaway County may have as many as 200 individuals who are experiencing homelessness at any given time. Not all of these folks find themselves living on the street, but rather "couch surfing" where they spend a night or two with various friends and family. These individuals are lucky to have a place with four walls and a roof to stay at night. Other members of Callaway County's homeless population don't have that luxury and are staying on the streets at night.
Two shelters, Haven House and Wiley House, serve many of the area's homeless population. Brad Sheppard, Executive Director of Our House, which runs the two shelters mentioned previously, joined the Rotary Club of Fulton today to talk about homelessness in Callaway County, and what his organization is doing to help those needing temporary shelter.
The mission of Our House is "Caring for Callaway’s Homeless to positively promote understanding, respect and housing solutions for the homeless in Callaway County through committed volunteers providing education, advocacy and sheltering."
The shelters operated by Our House provide options for families with children and single individuals.
Haven House opened in 2000 and serves as a shelter for families transitioning from homelessness. Residents must pass a background check before being admitted to the shelter. They must agree to all of the shelter's rules and regulations and cannot stay more than 12 weeks. Remaining employed or gaining employment is required. Haven House has five bedrooms with the other areas of the house being common areas, shared among the families.
Wiley House opened in 2009 as an overnight shelter for single men and women. As an overnight shelter, the residents are required to leave during the day, which with Missouri weather extremes can be problematic. Residents can stay overnight for up to 90 days. No meals are provided, but snacks, linen, and toiletries are available. A photo ID is required to enter. Guests cannot stay if there is a warrant for their arrest; if they are a sex offender; if they have a violent criminal record; or if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Our House depends on funding from the United Way and private donations to operate. There is Federal grant money available, but it mostly goes to shelters in larger cities.
Our House welcomes monetary and in-kind contributions.The generous support of the community makes our services possible.Checks made payable to “Our House” can be mailed to the following address:Our House, 829 Jefferson Street, Fulton, MO, 65251If you are interested in making an in-kind donation please contact us at (573) 642-6065 or firstname.lastname@example.org