ISO: Compassion

I believe that I live in a community that is filled with people who are compassionate. In fact, I know that we are, because almost all of those whom I have grown to know over the course of my life, are filled with compassion. I have seen it when there is a death and people send their condolences, or a fire and people send donations, or a back to school supply drive for kids in need. One of the most common things that I hear when people visit our community is, "Everyone here is so nice." And you know what, it's true. They are.

Other communities are filled with compassionate people as well. Despite all the threats that exist on a national scale in regard to the devastation that pieces of legislation may have on our populations, on a one to one scale, people overall don't want anyone to have to lose their insurance. They don't want them to have high premiums to have insurance, either. They just want something that can work for everyone, so we have what we need to get by.

Last year a local roundtable was formed to discuss the homeless situation here in the community. While we didn't feel that this was an overwhelming problem, close to 20 agencies took time to come and be a part of that conversation. To me, that was a real show of compassion. Since that time, we have partnered with the Missouri Housing Development Commission to have a "Project Homeless Connect" that will be a one-day event, meant to give direct access to services to those who are homeless in our area. We will be helping them to obtain proper identification, find housing options, help them with a resume and give them clothes to interview. We will also be giving their family a hot meal, taking their family photo for them to have, giving haircuts, and offering a shower, if wanted.

While we understand that this is not the solution for those who may be homeless on a day to day basis in our community, it will provide us with a better understanding of the needs those who are homeless may have when it comes to working toward solutions. Solutions are something that I'm most interested in and have been taking time to study what solutions work in order to better establish programs in our community that in turn will offer positive results.

One of those things is working to establish a laundry program at the Good Samaritan Center. Many families who are struggling often do not have secure access to a washer and dryer. In a recent Whirlpool study, families who were given access to laundry services had their children's school attendance rates improve 95% and the same percentage of involvement then for extra curricular activities. If we had a program that could offer that kind of return to our children in our community, that might change lives for the better in the future to come.

Another project that I have been working on is seeking secure funding for mental health professionals to be hired for our school district. In looking at our community compared to others in our county, our area struggles when it comes to mental health. Our area is also in an area that is deprived of mental health professionals, as we are "too far" from the city to attract them here. After a year of writing grants and being denied, for something that I feel so passionately is a solution for so many, I am determined now more than ever to make it my top priority moving forward.

If we are going to see a change in people's mindsets, beliefs, attitudes, and compassion toward one another, then we have to begin to show it ourselves. We have to take care of those around us who are struggling, whether they be the senior citizen that lives next door or the child whose electricity has been shut off in their house. And we have to make an investment in our people, by giving them access to services that will address their most basic of needs, if we ever expect them to then succeed.

I believe the compassionate people are just waiting to know what to do. They want to help, they just don't know how. As my priest, Father Larry Speichinger used to tell us, "If each community were to just take care of its own people, then everyone would have enough." If we are led in a way that is centered around what is best for people, we will find every solution we need.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

18839275_1572801199399189_5083552070276184603_n

 

Every morning you have two choices: continue to sleep with your dreams, or wake up and chase them!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Today I’ll be meeting with a small group of local citizens who are committed to working on finding solutions for our homeless problems here in Excelsior Springs. A year ago in July, a group began meeting to discuss the realities of what we’re facing when it comes to the issue. It was originally believed that there were around 12-15 a year that were homeless in our area. However, the past year we have come to have a better understanding of the true situation.

According to the Balance of State report in Missouri, that does a point in time collection of homeless figures from agencies working on the ground in the state, showed that our region (Region 4) is the second most highest in the state with homeless. In 2016, there were 235 households reported as being homeless in the region that is made up of 16 counties. The county that Excelsior Springs is in, Clay County, had by far the highest reporting number of homeless, with there being 146 homeless. The number one reason for homelessness was due to unemployment and being unable to pay rent.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 8.14.19 AM

(Source: Governor’s Committee to End Homelessness, Winter 2016)

In looking at the figures of those who were sheltered during the year, compared to those who weren’t, I can see that women are being sheltered far more than men, with 68% of them being women, 31% being men, and 1% being transgender, according to the Winter 2016 report. This may be because the largest reason for women seeking shelter is due to domestic violence, which accounts for 41% of the reasons for families seeking shelter.

Of those who are living unsheltered, men make up the majority with 69% living in cars, on the streets, in campgrounds, or abandoned buildings and houses. 45% of these men are listed as unaccompanied youth and 34% show some kind of substance abuse problem.

Knowing these facts, we get a better picture of the needs that our community has when it comes to homelessness. The Missouri Housing Development Commission each year chooses a community in the state to conduct a program called Project Homeless Connect. This year, they’ve chosen Excelsior Springs, due to the high number of homeless counts in Clay County. The local homeless coalition at that time then turned their attention toward this one-day event that is designed to give direct access to services for the homeless and work to get them into stable housing. They’ve given the Good Samaritan Center of Excelsior Springs a $10,000 grant to use in marketing and service costs for individuals. That is scheduled to be at Lewis Elementary School on Friday, October 27, 2017. For more information or to volunteer, please click here.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 8.27.24 AM

So while the homeless coalition’s attention has been on organizing this one-day event, our homeless are still on the street waiting. That is why today a small group of local leaders will be meeting to discuss long-term possibilities in offering solutions for our community. We plan to take a good look at the data that we have and work toward finding solutions.