SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – When you’re sick, who do you lean on? Your family or friends, right? Well, one nonprofit in Springfield is working to be there for women who don’t have a place to call home. OzarksFirst has been learning more about the Women’s Medical Respite, which has been offering temporary shelter and food to more than 200 sick and injured homeless women since May 2015.
Currently, the respite has access to just three apartments. They can help up to three women at a time. Amanda Blair was one of them in 2016, and she says it changed her life.
“Now that I look at it, it changed my path,” Blair said.
For Blair, it all started on Christmas Day six years ago.
“I was driving my car,” Blair said. “I wrecked it, broke my arm. I was transported by ambulance to Cox South.”
The hospital connected her to the Women’s Medical Respite (WMR). It was where she would spend the rest of 2016.
“Initially, it was a place to stay,” Blair said. “I didn’t have to be out on the streets. When I wrecked my car, I wrecked my house. That’s where I was living was out of my house. I’d been homeless for a period of time, but not in a car. So, I knew what it was like. I had to carry my stuff and it took that burden away at that time.”
But the nonprofit treated Blair like family. They gave her food, washed her hair, and even picked up her medicine.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever broken a bone, but if you do you’re really going to want your medications,” Blair said. “That was a great thing that was done. Also, they helped me push me in the direction of getting even more help versus just going right back out onto the streets.”
The Respite helped move Blair into a long-term shelter, which she says led her to a job she’s had since 2017. It was an experience that made her wonder where she would be if not for all that help.
“More than likely I would probably still be homeless,” Blair said. “I don’t want to think about that, but most likely that’s probably where I would be.”
Jan Weiss is the President of WMR. She says a number of clients, like Blair, have successfully moved on.
“That is one of the most valuable assets of the Women’s Medical Respite,” Weiss said. “
Weiss says her group helps homeless women only if they get a referral from a hospital or a community group like Harmony House.
“We’re very limited on space here even though we do have three rooms available for ladies,” Weiss said. “Only one is on the entry-level. Two of our rooms are upstairs, so they’re limited to a large extent by what might perhaps be the woman’s disability. Unfortunately, we do have to deny almost more referrals than those that we are able to accept.”
Weiss says only one thing could change that.
“Our goals or dreams for the future is to have a larger, one-story facility that is able to accommodate more women,” Weiss said. “So that we could serve more of the homeless population.”
Regardless, Weiss says thanks to the Respite, some homeless women don’t have to be in survival mode anymore.
“It gives them the chance to have a safe place to process kind of where she is going,” Weiss said. “From being homeless and ill and on the streets where literally you’re working in kind of survival mode to a place where they can kind of begin to collect their thoughts and make some decisions about how they move forward to a better place.”