Homeless survey vital to agencies

Monday, December 18, 2006

Missouri agencies working with those facing homelessness and those already without a home are hoping a January survey will help them maintain or increase their services to those in need.

At least two Cape Girardeau agencies are competing for coveted funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to supplement their programs, said Edwin Cooper, state coordinator for the Missouri Housing Development Commission.

The Community Caring Council in Cape Girardeau seeks funding for its supportive housing program for those with disabilities and their families, Cooper said. The agency provides rent for 30 units in Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Perry and northern Scott counties.

Vision House of Cape Girardeau wants funds for a program supporting women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction by providing rental subsidies on 16 one- and two-bedroom units and a full-time case manager.

The Missouri Housing Development Commission collaborates with the Governor's Committee to End Homelessness, which oversees regional groups in need of support through HUD.

Cooper met with one of the regional groups, which included Cape Girardeau, last week to discuss the importance of the survey and how it is to be carried out.

Those participating in the survey include homeless shelters, mental health agencies, drug counseling agencies and others that might have homeless people as clients. Surveyors will spend one 24-hour period in January gathering information on the number of individuals and families are without homes and categorize them into subgroups to determine where the most need is.

Roy Jones, Community Caring Council housing coordinator, will participate in the survey, which will include walking the streets of Cape Girardeau locating people to include in the survey.

Jones said it's difficult to find the homeless in Cape Girardeau.

"Most of the people without shelter don't want to be found," he said.

Based on last year's survey, there may be as many as 105 homeless in Cape Girardeau, Perry and Bollinger counties, Jones said.

The survey indicated about 85 percent of those individuals were in shelters, but Jones thinks that number could be higher due to the difficulty in locating the homeless and the fact they are scattered throughout the community.

Jones said there are numerous reasons for homelessness, including disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, which left millions homeless, and other disasters such as residential fires that can displace a family.

"One of the real problems is losing a job," he said. "Those things happen, and we have people that haven't been able to find a decent job for a variety of reasons."

There are other stakeholders interested in the survey besides those that provide shelter.

A. Michael Klein, divisional director of government relations with the Salvation Army in Kansas City, said survey results will benefit the Missouri Housing Trust Fund by creating awareness.

Klein is credited with spearheading the initiative, created in 1994, which collects a $3 fee on real estate transactions by each recorder of deeds in Missouri.

carel@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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