Need for assistance on increase among Poplar Bluff women, children, says rescue mission

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — High prices, job losses, and foreclosures are leading some Missouri residents into homelessness, according to a survey conducted last month by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM).

Hardest hit are single women with children, who made up 66 percent of the homeless families counted in the survey, a jump from 55 percent in 2007. Locally, women with children accounted for 10 percent of the families served at United Gospel Rescue Mission, a participant in the survey as a member of AGRM.

"These are tough times, and the people who often feel the pinch of the economy first are those in single parent homes. The mission is here to catch people when they fall. We're thankful for the faithful donors in Poplar Bluff who make it possible for us to care for our neighbors in need," said Pastor Greg Kirk, pastor of the United Gospel Rescue Mission.

The 20th annual Snapshot Survey of the Homeless, completed in October at 137 rescue missions across North America, recorded more women than ever before, 26 percent of those responding, as compared to 24 percent in 2007. In Poplar Bluff, 17 percent of those surveyed were women.

"Women and children are becoming more and more prevalent in our daily operations. As money tightens up we see more families needing food and other services we provide. We also see more people needing help with utilities and food boxes as well," Kirk said.

Overall, the mission has seen a dramatic increase in need in the community. Oftentimes, requests come from people who are on the verge of being homeless. Many come to the mission for meals or assistance with the monthly bills.

"Fuel prices, food costs, increases in utilities and monthly rent, they can just add up. If the mission can step in and help folks get through the month, it keeps them from ending up at the front door with all of their belongings in boxes," Kirk said.

The annual survey provides basic demographic data about the United Gospel Rescue Mission. This year, Caucasians made up 62 percent of those served, African-Americans 27 percent, Hispanics 2 percent and Native Americans 4 percent.

Age groups include: over 65, 4 percent; 46-65, 40 percent; 36-45, 14 percent; 26-35, 14 percent; 18-25, 12 percent; and under 18, 16 percent

In general 58 percent of the people responding to the survey come to the mission daily for help while all the respondents consider themselves residents of the local community. Sixty-nine percent had been homeless less than one year, 20 percent had never before been homeless and 44 percent had been homeless only once previously.

A wide majority (96 percent) prefer to receive assistance from an agency with a spiritual emphasis.

Founded in 1913, the Kansas City-based Association of Gospel Rescue Missions represents roughly 270 rescue missions in communities across North America. AGRM exists to proclaim the passion of Jesus toward the hungry, homeless, abused and addicted; and to accelerate quality and effectiveness in member missions. Last year, AGRM member ministries served more than 42 million meals, provided 15 million nights of lodging, distributed more than 27 million pieces of clothing and graduated 18,000 homeless men and women into productive living .

"The United Gospel Rescue Mission was founded in 1968 and has proclaimed the Gospel to the homeless and sought to reach the drug and alcohol addicted for over 40 years. We will continue to serve the needs of our community for many years to come," Kirk said.

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