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Handling Homelessness in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- During the cold months, emergency shelters are a safe haven for the homeless, but poverty is an issue that affects several local communities throughout the year.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- During the cold months, emergency shelters are a safe haven for the homeless, but poverty is an issue that affects several local communities throughout the year.

"Even though the government says the recession only lasted eighteen months, it's still going on here in Springfield, Missouri," says The Kitchen CEO Rory Oregeron.

Oregeron runs The Kitchen, Inc., which runs several programs that help homeless and needy people in Springfield. He says shelters across the city are full and that the need is far-reaching.

"I can't see where it has slowed down any," Oregeron says. "The numbers are still high. We still have over 100 people on waiting lists and probably a third of those are children wishing to get into a shelter, whether it's ours or one of the other ones around town."

Related: Homeless Men Clear Camp, Talk Struggle

While waiting lists grow, for some, there is hope.

Monte Stetler lived in a homeless camp just weeks ago. He said he wanted to "return to society."  With the help of Community Partnership of the Ozarks and the Springfield Affordable Housing Center, Stetler now has a home.

"It's Great," he says.  "Still getting used to it."

Before he got the keys to his new home, though, Stetler spent all day and night out in the elements, except for the coldest nights when warming shelters provided a roof over his head and a warm meal.
 
"Everybody liked East Sunshine Church of Christ because they make you feel home and provide a lot of stuff for you.  They give you a nice, warm place to stay and take care of you really good," Stetler says.

Stetler chose a new life, but others choose the streets.
 
"This is my fourth year sleeping in this every night," says Ron Goodman.  He lives inside his van.  "It beats sleeping on the ground or behind a dumpster."

For Goodman, homelessness is a choice.  He says it's freedom in every kind of weather.

"I've been in here when it's twelve below."

Whether by choice or by circumstance, addiction, mental illness or a criminal past, our homeless neighbors remain a part of our community.

"I came on 20 years ago and it seems as bad as now," says Springfield Police Major Kirk Manlove.  "I don't know if I see it getting worse or not, it just seems like it's never gone away."

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