SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — “We’ve been learning as we go,” said Wes Buchholz, program director at Crosslines.
For eight weeks, two Wheels to Work buses have been driving around Springfield taking panhandlers and the homeless to local resources such as job centers and other organizations to prepare them for employment opportunities.
“Trying to build the relationships we need to get them to trust the program that it’s going to do what it says it’s going to do,” Buchholz said.
The pilot program has been going on for 8-weeks now. It doesn’t cost taxpayers any money; the buses are donated and the drivers are volunteers.
Now, Wheels to Work wants to get community members involved and spread the word about wheels to work to get people off the street.
“Springfieldians, we are known for wanting to help people,” said Melissa Haase, assistant director of Public Information and Civic Engagement for the City of Springfield. “A lot of folks they just feel uncomfortable, they don’t really know what to do when they see a panhandler at an intersection,”
Instead of handing them cash, drivers can now give panhandlers a card with the number 211 on it and information about what Wheels to Work and the community has to offer.
By calling 211 people can get connected with employment, shelter, and food. And Wheels to Work can take them there.
“We’ve also learned that a lot of people don’t really know where to start in finding employment,” said Buchholz.
So far, Buchholz says the program has interacted with more than 150 panhandlers.
“We are giving them a start and it’s up to them how far they take it,” said Buchholz.
“If we just help one person by connecting them with services and getting them through the continuum of services that we offer in Springfield, that it’s a success,” said Haase.
The cards can be picked up at the Citizen Resource Center inside the Busch Building, or you can print them off at home.