An unsheltered man and his dog sit on a grassy spot next to Chestnut Expressway in January 2023. Data from the point-in-time count conducted in January 2023 found sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in this community. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

One of every six homeless persons counted in Springfield on a single winter night in 2023 was a child under the age of 18. That’s just one of the stats revealed in an annual effort to count Springfield’s unhoused population.

The Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness (Continuum of Care) released some initial data findings from the 2023 point-in-time count of unsheltered people in the Springfield metro area.

The point-in-time count, known locally as the “Every One Counts Campaign,” is a federally-mandated count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness.

On the night of Jan. 25, 617 individuals were counted.

Because the number of unsheltered people counted helps determine funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, service providers say it’s important to collect information from as many people experiencing homelessness as possible.

The alliance conducted the count with help from the Connecting Grounds and Burrell Behavioral Health outreach teams on the night of Jan. 25. Crisis cold weather shelters were open across Springfield, because the outdoor temperature was less than 32 degrees.

Of the 617 individuals who were identified as experiencing homelessness on Jan. 25, 56 were military veterans, 105 were children under 18, and 35 were youth aged 18-24, according to information from the alliance. There were 46 families with children — a total of 152 people — without housing at the time of the count.

Of those counted, 159 were unsheltered, 408 were in an emergency shelter. Emergency shelter includes those staying in a Crisis Cold Weather Shelter.

Last year’s point-in-time count found about 450 individuals who were spending the night in some type of homeless shelter. In 2022, only a sheltered count was conducted. This year, street outreach was also done for the point-in-time count.

Stats from shelter program

Data regarding the Crisis Cold Weather Shelter program was shared at a recent appreciation dinner. Crisis cold weather sheltering occurs on nights when temperatures are 32 degrees and lower.

According to Ashely Quinn, chair of the CCWS Planning Committee, the shelter program provided beds for members of Springfield’s unsheltered community more than 10,657 times this past winter.

Those “bed-nights of shelter” are not a count of how many individual homeless people sought shelter — but rather how many times someone signed in at a shelter.

The shelters are all low-barrier shelters, meaning folks don’t have to show ID or fill out any application. They simply sign in and get a cot for the night.

Shelters are set up inside church buildings and community centers throughout Springfield.

Ashley Quinn, chair of the Crisis Cold Weather Shelter Planning Committee and Shelter Coordinator, shares stats about the shelter program at a recent appreciation dinner.
Ashley Quinn, chair of the Crisis Cold Weather Shelter Planning Committee and Shelter Coordinator, shares stats about the shelter program at a recent appreciation dinner. (Photo by Emily Fessler with Community Partnership of the Ozarks)

These shelters are staffed almost entirely by volunteers.

Volunteers logged more than 11,400 hours at the shelter locations this past winter.

During the 2022-2023 cold weather shelter season, people seeking shelter could meet at Grace United Methodist Church on evenings the shelters were open and get free meals provided by volunteers and transportation to the different shelter sites.

Community meal teams provided more than 28,000 meals at Grace this past winter. That comes to about 4,800 volunteer hours. 

Additionally, there was even more volunteer time, food contributions, city buses, shelter and laundry services to keep the cold weather shelter program running this past winter. 

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers housing, homelessness, domestic violence and early childhood, among other public affairs issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald