Compassionate people join forces for Cape homeless problem

Two faith-based organizations, led by two compassionate people, have combined forces to get homeless people off the streets and into stable housing.

As recently reported by Jay Wolz, a two-story, four-bedroom house on Jefferson Street in Cape Girardeau soon will become permanent housing for several homeless men, thanks to a partnership between The People’s Shelter and Saint Francis Health System Foundation.

The first residents of The Peaceful Place-Saint Francis House at 827 Jefferson St. will move in around Sept. 1, the Rev. Renita Green, pastor of St. James AME Church, told Wolz. The church sponsors The People’s Shelter, which is renovating another house for homeless men at 802 William St. It, too, will be known as The Peaceful Place.

Jimmy Wilferth, the health system’s vice president of marketing and the Saint Francis Foundation, said he learned about Green’s efforts to provide housing for homeless, single men, age 50 and older, and wanted to see whether they could combined their efforts.

“We didn’t even know about this a month ago,” Wilferth said and explained the Saint Francis Foundation was already providing housing for several homeless men in south Cape Girardeau. “We (he and the Rev. Green) started talking with mutual friends who said, ‘Jimmy, do you know what Renita is doing?’ and ‘Renita, do you know what Jimmy is doing?’ so we got together, and here we are,” he said.

Wilferth’s interest in helping the homeless was sparked after a mission trip, and he felt led to do mission work here at home.

On any given day there are a dozen or so homeless men in Cape Girardeau. They live under the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge or under overpasses, or even under the gazebo near the Common Pleas Courthouse.

With the consent and support of the Saint Francis Foundation, Wilferth arranged to rent a house for them in south Cape Girardeau where they continue to live today.

“For the past two years, the Saint Francis Foundation has provided a safe home for these men who once lived in the streets,” he said. “The need is real, and we are called to serve this marginalized and discarded population. The mission of Saint Francis is to provide a ministry of healing, wellness, quality and love. This is tough to do if basic life needs aren’t being met, like proper nourishment and a safe place to call home.”

Green and her church have been actively helping the homeless for quite some time. The church has offered space when the temperatures plummet, offering a place for the homeless to spend the night out of the cold. The church had already acquired a house to help offer a more permanent housing solution.

Work is continuing on that project, The Peaceful Place house on William Street, which Green said she hopes is ready for occupancy by next spring after repairs and renovations are completed.

“We know we can’t fix the problem for homelessness for everyone,” Wilferth said, “but we can do for one at a time what we wish we could do for all.”

The Bible is clear about helping impoverished people in our communities. Wilferth, Green and their respective places of work and worship are real-world examples of helping “the least of these.” We hope the people who receive the blessings of this charity flourish and find solid ground. God bless everyone involved.