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Safe to Sleep Program Offers Help to Homeless Women

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Using an innovative method to help homeless women stay safe and out of the cold, a program called Safe to Sleep keeps dozens of women of the streets at night struggling to find a place to sleep.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Using an innovative method to help homeless women stay safe and out of the cold, a program called Safe to Sleep keeps dozens of women of the streets at night struggling to find a place to sleep.

The founder of Safe to Sleep say the organization was born out of desperation when she was contacted by three women who were working to find places to hide at night so they could get some sleep. One of them was even sleeping in tall grass.  

Safe to Sleep helps change that.

"I've been here now two weeks,” says Mary Willis, who lost her home to foreclosure. "I wouldn't want to be there out on the streets for nothing."

Willis had been staying with a friend, but her time ran out.

"The people are good they treat me like I belong here,” says Willis. "It’s wonderful to know no one is going to bother you."

Willis says with unbearably cold temperatures forecasted she's especially grateful.

"If we didn't have it we'd be out there on the streets and that's cold, real cold,” says Willis.  “I couldn't take it."

Romona Baker founded Safe to Sleep. She says nightly they transform this gym at Pathways United Methodist Church into a place for women to sleep.

Baker says these women had to get off the street and area churches stepped in.

“It was very dangerous to go to sleep unless you've got a place to hide,” says Baker.  “So that's when I tried to find a place with cots, with a restroom where they could just get in at night."

Safe to Sleep turns a church gym into a giant bedroom.

"We pull out racks, carts of sleeping bags of cots they have blankets they have pillows,” says Baker. "Then they can sleep until 6:15 a.m. Then, they get up and put it all away again and it becomes a gym again."

Baker says people need protection from more than just the cold.

"For a woman to be outside is simply physically dangerous,” says Baker. “If it's cold weather, of course that adds to the danger."

Each day this space transforms back to the church gym.

"We do it all again the next night,” says Baker. “And every night."

And women like Mary Willis are grateful.
"It's better here than it would be out there,” says Willis.  “I couldn't stand it out on the streets walking and trying to find a place to get under, some people get under cardboard and put their bed rolls up.  I couldn't stand it out on the street."

Safe to Sleep is always in need of volunteers to stay through the night, toiletries and hygiene products and cash donations are also welcome.

People who want to utilize Safe to Sleep have to go through an organization called One Door that helps people in danger of being homeless.

Women who have not gone through that organization will have to rely on other organizations for the extremely cold weather until they can go through One Door.
 
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