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City Council Reaffirms Commitment To Those Seeking A Safe Place To Sleep

Credit: Safe to Sleep

For several years the city of Springfield has declared an economic and housing calamity for the unemployed and working poor. On Monday the City Council unanimously extended the resolution. KSMU’s Shane Franklin has the story.

This is the third time the resolution has been extended since December 2009. 

The resolution will stay in effect until either a 5 percent unemployment rate is maintained in Greene County for two consecutive months, the resolution expires on January 1st 2014, or until lasting solutions are successfully implemented in the community.

According to the resolution passed by City Council, there are organizations working on long-term solutions, but it is unlikely that a solution for this ongoing issue will be implemented within the year.

Even though the resolution allows for food and lodging to be provided by organizations in the community, these organizations have to first meet building safety and health code standards. Before the resolution was initially passed in 2009, it would have been illegal for an organization or business to take in and feed people off the streets.

Safe to Sleep- Overnight Woman’s Shelter is a program sponsored by the Council of Churches of the Ozarks. They started with six cots in 2011, and in one year served 346 different women for a total of 4,366 “bed nights,” according to the resolution.  

Organizations such as Schweitzer United Methodist Church, Crosslines, and the Victory Mission donate supplies, but Romona Baker of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks says that the one thing needed most of all is additional volunteers.

“We have to come up with two volunteers every night. There is a constant need for more people to come in. We have a lot of retired people, so hip surgery and knee surgery and things like that take a toll on our volunteers, and so we constantly need more volunteers,” says Baker.

Each volunteer with Safe to Sleep takes turns sleeping, so that someone is awake at all times to help the ladies in the night, or to welcome an additional woman in from the elements.

Safe to Sleep is only for women, so that they may, as the name explains, have a safe place to lay their head at night.

“Woman who are outside who are suddenly in that situation are incredibly frightened. It’s not that bad during the daytime, but at night to try to find a place to hide, or many of them simply walk during the night because they are afraid to go to sleep, or don’t have a place to hide out to sleep,” says Baker.

To allow for a place for women in Springfield to go, Safe to Sleep is open year round, not just in severe weather such as tornadoes or heavy snowstorms.

Each night they serve on average of 15 women, and some nights as many as 35.

Safe to Sleep is able to legally operate like this due to the resolution passed by City Council. Council did note though, that any act of assistance for the unemployed or working poor in Springfield is voluntary.

But, Baker asks that those with a compassionate heart do help.  If they cannot find two people in the community to sit through the night with the women of Safe to Sleep, then that night they cannot open their doors to allow women in, therefore the hiding and the walking would continue.

For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.