Homeless endure subzero temperatures in the Heartland

Homeless endure subzero temperatures in the Heartland

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The bitter cold is on everyone's mind. Turn up the heat, grab another blanket or let's get inside are some of the things we might be thinking about.

But, some people don't even have that option and are staying outdoors because they do not have any type of shelter.

"Our last time of count in January 2017, we had 61 unsheltered homeless individuals in Cape Girardeau County," Community Caring Council Executive Director Melissa Stickel said.

Stickel said that homelessness in the area is a problem. She said that even one person without a home is too much.

The Community Caring Council has several different programs which include permanent supportive housing program, rental assistance for those needing assistance on rent, and an emergency solutions gr ant for those that are homeless.

"Natural with any of those programs, our funding is very limited and there are some small requirements for each of those programs," Community Caring Council Housing Coordinator Calvin Garner said.

"Our main name is for housing stability but first you have to get them into a house," Stickel said. "That's where most of our housing programs come into play in order to address those. Unfortunately, those aren't immediate solutions. These are long-term solutions."

The homeless situation in Cape Girardeau City and the county is something that goes overlooked easily.

"Sometimes communities can be in denial in regards to this situation," Garner said. "It's also one of those taboo subjects that people don't like to be aware of and don't want to face the reality of. Every one of us would like to think that our community is, the birds are singing all the time and we have white picket fences. There also is another side of that that we see every day here."

Both Garner and Stickel said it's a challenging problem to fix as even homeless shelters are at their limit, as well as, warming shelters aren't open overnight in the area during this freezing time.

"The reality is that people are sleeping under the bridge and people are sleeping out in the woods and people are sleeping in back seats of cars," Stickel added. "Because we have no other permanent solution that's immediate, no other immediate solution, we have to do what we can with what we have."

Stickel said they are able to help out some of those in need including giving them food, gloves, hats and even a sleeping bag at times.

"We try to provide as much relief that we can," Stickel added. "It's not a lot. It doesn't feel good to say - Hey, here's a sleeping bag and a blanket. Try to stay warm wherever you're at - It doesn't make it easy to sleep at night."

Looking at the long-term issue, Garner believes that awareness and education are the keys to helping the homeless problem here.

"Education primarily," Garner added. "Not just in our community but nationwide. I think we need to first acknowledge the fact that we have a problem. Education is key and I think action is the next step. Action can be done by volunteering. It also can be done through financial assistance."

If you would like to help out in any way, you can d rop off items such as gloves, hats, socks, food and sleeping bags at the Community Caring Council in Cape Girardeau.

If you would like to volunteer your time to help, they have events listed on their page and other ways you might be able to help. You can click here to visit them online.

"I think it's so important for us to recognize that they're individuals, they're people too, they matter," Stickel said. "There's a lot of things in their lives that we know nothing about. Too often we are quick to judge and make assumptions and the doing something for these people is what's important."

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