Many Branson Families Struggle During 'Off Season'

By Lex Smith |, Lindsay Clein , Matt Lupoli |

Published 02/04 2014 10:11PM

Updated 02/05 2014 12:27AM

BRANSON, Mo.-- With the frigid weather outside, families are thankful for having warm places to stay.

For a growing number of Branson families, that home is an extended-stay motel room. 

"When they think of Branson, they think of the lights and the shows," says Motel Resident Carlena Helms.  "And they think money is getting poured in, but they're not here when everything shuts down."   

Branson's Highway 76 is lined by signs with flashing lights and famous faces.  It's also home to many struggling families.

"There are a lot of families just like us," says Motel Resident DeLisa Totton.  "It's either motels or living in your car."

"To live here, it's a roof over your head," says Motel Resident Anne Duncan.  "You know, heat."

It's a reality for a growing number of people in the Musical City.

"It seems like every day more and more are coming," says Duncan.

"It'll break you heart sometimes," says Jesus Was Homeless Founder Bryan Stallings.  "That's for sure."

Jesus Was Homeless is an organization that focuses on helping struggling families.

"Sometimes folks who live in the motels are the forgotten ones," Stallings says.  "Because you don't see them on the streets, you don't see them under park benches, so I think they just struggle."

Stallings and hundreds of volunteers deliver meals to the people living in the motels on and off the strip.

"In 2009, we delivered 11,000 meals to 25 motels and in 2013 we delivered 52,000 meals to 22 motels."

"For a long time we depended on these Thursday night meals," says Motel Resident Carlena Helms.  "You know, they budget it in like, 'Oh at least we got Thursday night covered.'"

In Branson, jobs are hard to come by.  Especially when tourists aren't around.

"I'm currently on layoff at the moment," says Motel Resident Thomas Totton.  "I go back to work at the end of February."

"That puts everybody in difficult times," says Duncan.  "Other parts of the region don't have that experience.  They work year-round."

Living in one small room brings several challenges.

"It kind of gets a little crowded," says Delisa.

"It's just a very confined space," says Duncan.  "Your kitchen sink is your bathroom sink."

But the challenges of finding a permanent place are far worse.

"You have to have like $2,000 to rent a place," says Thomas.  "And that's kind of hard to come up with."

No matter their financial status, these families say they're doing all they can to make it.

"We're people just like they are," says Delisa.  "The only thing we want is... we're struggling and we just want to get back on our feet."

Jesus Was Homeless delivers around 900 sack-lunch-style meals to the people living in these motels every Thursday night.

The families we met tell us they're thankful for the group's help.  They say it's become a vital part of the Branson community.

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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