A Springfield pastor is sharing her church’s idea for a project that — if funded — includes building two homeless shelters: one for families, and one for individuals or couples and medical respite beds.
Pastor Christie Love is hosting a virtual Zoom meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday. (Find the Zoom link on the Connecting Grounds’ Facebook page Wednesday.)
The details for Connecting Grounds’ Roots of Community project are available online, but Pastor Christie Love said she hopes people will participate in Wednesday’s Zoom meeting to learn more about the unsheltered population in Springfield, plans for Roots of Community and to ask questions about the project.
The Connecting Grounds Church has been serving the Ozarks’ unsheltered community since 2018.
Love said she doesn’t really anticipate the project will get any of the City of Springfield’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, but she plans to apply for ARPA funds from Greene County when they become available.
She pointed to a survey conducted last year to determine how the Springfield community wants to see ARPA funds spent. The survey was mailed to 5,000 randomly selected households in Springfield. According to results, “homeless and housing services” ranked second among the community’s funding priorities.
This Springfield pastor feeds, clothes and shelters our homeless — why do some locals fight her?
Pastor Christie Love walks across a field on a freezing January night in Springfield with an unforgiving wind that whips clouds across the moon’s full face. A campfire’s remnants smolder. Three small tents crowd against the pillars of an overpass. “Outreach!” she shouts at the tents. Nothing happens. No one responds. A vehicle rhythmically clacks…
“We have this unprecedented opportunity with this large amount of funding,” Love said. “When we look at the survey that the community did, the community was saying, ‘We want to see affordable housing, mental health services, services to the unhoused addressed.’”
But it’s going to take more than ARPA funds to make the $12 million project a reality, Love said.
“Roots is going to be a community-sized project,” Love said. “It is way bigger than what our little church could do by itself. It is way bigger than any one source of funding or any one grant. It’s ginormous, but the problem in our community is growing every single day and it is huge. And so we need huge solutions.”
Love described Roots of Community as having two separate campuses each being built in two phases.
“Phase one at both campuses would allow us to purchase the land, would allow us to build one apartment complex at each site and one community center at each site,” Love explained. “One of those sites would be for families with children. And so that community center would actually be more of like a day-care center, a child-care center that would offer 24-hour child care because we have some parents that don’t work during regular hours.”
Phase one would create 27 apartments at that location. The other campus would be for adults or couples without children. That shelter would be very similar to the family shelter, but its first floor would be designated for medical respite with 20 beds.
During the Wednesday meeting, Connecting Grounds staff and volunteers will talk about what they encounter every day among Springfield’s unsheltered community and present data from a recent survey they conducted..
They also will talk about the programs and nonprofits that are currently serving the unsheltered population, but that are almost always at capacity.
The Roots of Community plan isn’t going to solve all the issues related to the unsheltered community, Love said.
“Roots is one piece of a puzzle we have to continue to put together,” she said, adding that she believes a year-round nightly shelter and another day-time drop-in center is needed.
Love said she’ll share data about the positive economic impacts Roots of Community could have and how it would actually save taxpayer money in the long run to not have these people in and out of jails, ambulances, emergency rooms, hospital rooms, police cars and shelters.
“We are such an economically-minded community. We need to understand what it’s costing us, as a city, to not solve homelessness,” she said. “We know based on national figures that it costs roughly $35,000 per person.
“When we look at Springfield and the kind of numbers on the streets right now, we’re talking about millions of dollars that our community is spending to have people on the streets,” she said. “If we invest $12 million, which I know is an enormous price tag, but not only does that help an enormous amount of people to learn how to be housed, to deal with some of those barriers, to transition into permanent housing where hopefully they’re much more successful.”
Learn more at theconnectinggrounds.com.