Homelessness is a problem in Pettis County and two people in particular who are trying to make the community aware of it are Roxanne Parker, director of Housing Service for the Pettis County Community Partnership; and Jack Menges, executive director of Open Door Ministries.
“A lot of people think we don’t have a homeless problem in Sedalia,” said Menges. “We need a shelter in this town that’s going to hold 30 or 40 people.”
And, added Parker, “we need a shelter that will take men, women and families. And we don’t have that right now.”
Menges acknowledged the Embassy, which houses men only. “What they’re doing is fine, but the place will hold 13 when they get everything done, and they are at maximum capacity now.” He added that Warrensburg opened a shelter several weeks with a capacity of 24, “and in the first 10 days, they were full. Prior to that, when they had someone homeless, they would send them to Sedalia, because we had more resources than they did. They do not have a real good social services network of agencies to work with people like we do here,” Menges noted.
A homeless shelter located in Sedalia would not be exclusive to serving only those living in Pettis County, he emphasized.
Parker noted that her office serves people from multiple surrounding counties that don’t have the resources that Pettis has.”They definitely don’t have shelters. But we have the ability because we do have an amazing social network here where all of us work together, and it’s very unique. We have the ability to truly make a difference in this entire region,” Parker said.
Her office and Jack’s is regularly contacted by law enforcement from adjoining counties and asked if they will transport a homeless person to Pettis County. The answer is usually no, they cannot transport, “But if you can get them here, we will do everything we can to help them,” Parker said. So the response from the other side is usually “do they have to be in Pettis County? Because I’ll bring them to the Pettis County line and drop them off; then it’s your problem.”
That’s not going to solve the issue, Parker stated. “And we don’t live in a bubble. So what we do, or don’t do, affects the counties around us, especially those who don’t have the resources that we have available to us.. To make a difference with homelessness, we’re going to have to do it regionally. We can’t say we’re going to end homelessness in Sedalia. There aren’t walls built at the county line.”
Raising awareness of the homeless problem is the first hurdle to overcome, Menges said. “We need to know who’s interested in helping.”
The financial part of it is only a piece of it, Parker stressed. Sometimes it takes several weeks until permanent housing is identified for a homeless individual or family. “But none of the agencies or churches can afford hotel rooms night after night for multiple families. But at the same time, when it’s 10 degrees and snowing outside, you can’t say no.”
When shelters in much larger communities such as Kansas City, Jeff City, Columbia and Springfield are contacted, they are almost always full as well. “Even if the client were willing to relocate, it’s taking hours on the phone to find a shelter with available beds,” and then comes the problem of transporting them there when one is available,” Parker pointed out.
“Sedalia churches are very good about stepping up and helping out with those kinds of things. And some people are homeless by choice,” she added. “But for the most part, families and individuals are homeless because they lack the resources” to go from nothing to living in stable housing,” noted Parker, adding that it can take well over $1,000 to get started. ”So this shelter is really needed. That’s the gap we need to fill. We help create stability, and that’s what’s going to make a difference in our community, or economy and ultimately in people’s lives.”
Menges noted that he just wants the public to understand that this is a need, and they’re trying to brainstorm and come up with ideas, and get in touch with people who want to be a part of the project.
For more information or to share ideas, call Parker at 827-0560 or Menges at 827-1613.