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A construction sub-contractor, currently homeless, struggles to find housing due to a prior eviction

David Costa sleeps in the Victory Mission men’s shelter in Springfield, Missouri.
Jennifer Moore
David Costa sleeps in the Victory Mission men’s shelter in Springfield, Missouri.

Below is a Q and A between KSMU's Jennifer Moore and Springfield resident David Costa, a construction worker who is currently staying overnights in a Springfield shelter. This interview transcript has been lighted edited for clarity.

Q: Tell me about your efforts to find housing.

A: It's pretty hard because if you've ever had an eviction or if you've been in trouble before, they want a $35 fee, usually a non-refundable fee. And it's hard to get them to let you in. And if any housing person does let you in, they're slumlords—meaning they won't fix the house. And there's a lot of them around here.

Q: Where do you currently stay at night?

A: I stay at the Victory Mission on the men's lodging side. I pay $13 a night, and thank God that place is there.

Q: What are some of the obstacles you face? What's making it tough for you to move from a shelter to housing?

A: Well, I'm getting older in life and I do do a hard job and sometimes you twist something or hurt something. And then, I am a subcontractor. I have no insurance because that's the way it goes. And if I hurt myself, then there is nobody there left behind to help me.

Q: Are you on a list for housing anywhere?

A: I have applied for most of them, but because I've had an eviction on my record, they won't let me in. So I think that now since I'm older, that I can possibly sign up for HUD [government assistance housing]. But when you have no vehicle, it's so hard to get around.

Q: Do you mind telling us whether there was an event that kind of pushed you over the edge into homelessness, or was it a series of events?

A: I got a divorce and I came down here and because where I come from, it was all farm labor and no jobs. So when I came down here, it was to support my ex-wife and kids. And what pushed me over is I'd get hurt. Or, to tell you the truth, I went to jail for 90 days and they sold my truck and they sold my work tools and they put me out of business. So that's what it was. But it happens all the time here.

Q: So when you were in jail, was your vehicle impounded? What happened exactly?

A: No, the guy who had the keys to it—who was supposed to give it to my daughter—sold my truck. And he sold all of my work tools and I figure about $10,000 [worth of property] for 800 bucks.

Q: So you said you have applied for housing. You filled out the paperwork. Where is that?

A: My ex-wife did. She came down here and I tried everything because I want to keep my kids. You know, [life on the streets is] a dangerous place, but I keep my kids in a stable housing. And she was at the Catholic Charities.

Q: Tell me about your kids.

A: I had seven kids. And they're all grown, which is good. And Dad's up here doing his thing and it's a good thing. And the ex-wife's getting married, and that's a wonderful thing. That saves me a lot of money. But yes, ma'am, but I just wanted my kids with me and close so I could watch them.

Q: And how did that play out? Were they able to stay with you?

A: No, I couldn't stay with them because [the shelter] is family oriented, you know, and there's no place for families in this town. They have no shelters for families.

Q: I should note there are very limited shelter options for homeless families, and the shelters that do accommodate families are usually operating at capacity, based on our reporting.

A: When my wife was up here and she got up here, Covid had hit. And I had them all in a trailer. I lost the trailer. And so I went to [Community Partnership of the Ozarks facility] One Door. One Door got me into a motel room right away. I mean, they help these guys get their IDs all the time because they lose everything.

Q: They help the unsheltered get an ID.

A: Yeah, because I'm from California, so my birth certificate is $140 and two months out. But because of One Door, they gave me a service point which had my picture on it. I just went down and got my ID.

Q: What about housing? Have they helped with housing?

A: They were so swamped since the Covid, I don't think they can really help anybody. But I've talked to people that they help, you know, and it's mostly the really disabled. And most of these guys can work, too. I mean, it's just hard to find a job, you know, when you're all dirty and you ain't got that stability.

Q: Last question. If there were just one thing that could make the biggest difference in your life—whether it's health care, capital, access to cash, a roof over your head—what what would it be?

A: Stability, a roof over my head, knowing that I got some place to go. And that's a big thing in everybody's life.

Q: David Costa, thank you very much for talking to us.

A: Thank you. You have a nice day.

Costa is staying overnights in a Springfield shelter. As with all interviews, we try to independently verify what we hear. That's very difficult to do with the homeless community, since documents are often difficult for them to attain. Costa is one of dozens of individuals our newsroom has interviewed in the past 18 months, most of them unsheltered. All of those interviewed said they have had difficulty finding both emergency shelter and long term housing in Springfield.