Local service groups tackle "new" homeless problem in Southeast MO

By Kathy Sweeney - bio | email

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - "Where was the last place you lived for 90 days straight?" Salvation Army case worker Tina Rogers asked Susan, a mother of four trying to find a permanent place to call home.

Susan is just one of countless people struggling right now to keep a roof over their head.

"I've got hope that one day, we'll be in a place of our own," Susan said.

She knows first-hand how great the problem is after being turned away, she says, from full shelters throughout southeast Missouri.

"There is no help right now for a family of my size or probably any size. The need is really great right now," she said.

"We have been seeing like, ten families a day," Rogers said, causing her to spend $5000 out of her housing budget in just the last three months putting them in hotels for a night or two.

"A lot of it is because of the income, lack of income or not enough income," Rogers explained.

This alarming increase can be counted in the packed filing cabinets at Community Caring Council in Cape Girardeau.

Here, social workers Jamie Ludwig and Natalie Sandoval work to match those in need with programs to keep them in their homes, or give them a fresh start.  The council operates three different housing programs right now.  The first provides deposit assistance.  The second, paid with federal stimulus money, is designed to keep people in their homes or get them back in a home quickly.  And the third is specifically aimed at those who are both homeless and disabled under HUD guidelines.

"We are seeing people that are still working, may have had a resource at one time, but all their inner network is even strained and stressed," Sandoval explained.

They say finding good, affordable housing can also pose a big challenge.

"You know, I was talking with Natalie earlier about how, when new things are built, it's typically very high-end or for a specific population," Ludwig recalled. "Not necessarily for the average folks who struggle on a daily basis."

Back at the Salvation Army, Susan faces that daily struggle, all the while holding out hope for her children, and other families just like hers.

"I hope that me and the other families that is in need of help, that we get the help that we need. And I hope we get it soon."

For more information on housing and homeless programs offered through the Community Caring Council, go to www.communitycaringcouncil.org.

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