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Springfield City Council extends economic and housing 'calamity'

Light snow fell amid freezing temperatures at Springfield City Hall on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Light snow fell amid freezing temperatures at City Hall on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022 as Springfield City Council renewed the city's declaration of economic and housing "calamity" for the eighth time since Dec. 14, 2009. The calamity resolution allows a set of churches and nonprofits to manage cold-weather crisis shelters for unsheltered residents.

Did you know the city of Springfield has been under a declaration of economic and housing "calamity" since 2009? KSMU was at Monday night’s city council meeting and has more.

The resolution declaring a calamity in Springfield in terms of economics and housing was first adopted in the throes of the Great Recession on Dec. 14, 2009. Council renewed it seven times — up until Monday night when it voted 8-to-zero to extend it once more. (General Seat D Councilman Richard Ollis was absent from the meeting.)

The move isn’t just symbolic of a community with a chronic 21.7-percent poverty rate — well above state and national averages. The resolution authorizes a group of nonprofit organizations and churches to provide shelter to unsheltered people who are, quote, “working poor and unemployed.”

Michelle Garand with Community Partnership of the Ozarks said the resolution provides for a system of 10 cold-weather shelters. Six of those operate on freezing nights from November though March. During extreme temperatures of 15 degrees or colder, the resolution also authorizes two more shelters to serve up to 40 individuals, with two additional overflow shelters activated on nights when the system exceeds capacity.

This year, Garand said that people managing the system were still setting up food and transportation to the shelter locations even as cold weather hits.

“We are desperately seeking a single point of access just to clearly communicate where individuals who need the shelter should go to get the meal and then for those pickup sites," Garand told Council Monday night.

Garand said 295 beds were available in this year’s winter crisis shelters and that the shelters need more volunteers. The shelters were open Monday night amid freezing temperatures and light snowfall.

Clarification: Due to a production error, this story was updated Sept. 8, 2023 to add the journalist's byline.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.