Homeless shelter may open soon in Sikeston

Friday, May 2, 2008

SIKESTON, Mo. -- A new homeless shelter will cover the hole in Sikeston's safety net.

Debra Standridge and Gina Crowley, co-directors of the Guardian Angel Overnight Shelter, hope to see the facility open within the next two months. "There is a definite need," Crowley said. "There is no place that is free that you can stay for a single night."

"We're filling a gap," Standridge agreed.

On Jan. 30, local agencies did a homeless count and determined the number of homeless here was 150, according to Crowley, "and one-third of those people were children."

Other than hotels and motels, there is no place for those who need shelter for a single night.

"Some of these people are sleeping on the street, in the park," Standridge said.

Crowley said the shelter will require a referral from a local agency such as Family Services, the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation, House of Refuge or Mission Missouri. Background and warrant checks will also be conducted to determine eligibility.

Ann Davis, president of the shelter's board of directors, said background checks and security is a priority as the facility will be providing shelter for men in addition to women and children.

Those referred may stay for "one night at a time," Crowley said. "They can stay that night then that morning they need to be out looking for another place. There will be no one staying there during the day."

Standridge said check in will be from 4 to 10 p.m. The only way to be admitted after 10 p.m. is with a DPS escort. "The doors will lock at 10 p.m. and everyone will have to be out by 9 a.m.," she said. The only exception is the disabled who will be allowed to stay temporarily in a common room until an alternate place can be found.

Additional stays may be allowed on a case-by-case basis. "Hopefully within a couple of nights they'll have another place to stay," Crowley said. During the day, the shelter will be a resource center, according to Crowley, providing things from bus tickets to referrals to other agencies such as DAEOC, House of Refuge and Mission Missouri. "It depends on what the need is," she said.

The shelter is for homeless in the Sikeston area, according to Standridge. In cases where transients are admitted, it will only be for a single day and with a clear background check.

Larry Davis, pastor of the Trinity Gospel Church, which is supporting and overseeing the shelter, said the Ministerial Alliance has funding and systems in place for assisting transients as they pass through.

Donations from the community to establish the facility, which is located at 835 Tanner, have been generous so far. "But there's a lot of work to be done," said Ann Davis. "We're hoping it will be a citywide project."

Crowley said board members are still seeking donations of labor and funding to finish getting the house up to city code as well as tangible items such as bedding, toiletries, kitchen items, food and furnishings.

"Right now we need an electrician who is bonded and insured in Sikeston," said Davis. "That's a major need right now. We've got to rewire that whole house."

"We're willing to talk to churches, we're willing to talk to agencies to discuss what we're doing, what we need and how they can help," Crowley said.

Tangibles can be donated by contacting Standridge or Crowley at 573-471-0944 or 573-475-9296, while monetary donations can be sent to P.O. Box 145, Sikeston, MO 63801.

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