It began in the cold...
In 1989, something had to give for Springfield and its homeless problem.
Bags and coats and rows of people would line up outside downtown buildings to seek shelter from the cold. Up to 50 individuals would bed down under awnings and warm themselves by huddling together until services would reopen the next morning.Under the leadership of Mayor Ossie Langfelder and a team of concerned local citizens, including those from the Interfaith Coalition and Ministerial Alliance, Helping Hands of Springfield Inc. was born.
These caring individuals passed a hat around the room collecting enough money to incorporate and later rented a room near the YWCA for those seeking refuge from the cold. There were no beds, paid staff or showers. There were no grants, measurable outcomes or funders. There were people with a hot cup of coffee, an open door and a chair to sit on.
Twenty-five years later, Helping Hands is poised to move into its first owned “forever home” in the history of its existence.This building will accommodate all operations and staff that comprise this agency but most importantly will give the agency the space to strategically implement its three main programs that we believe are paramount to addressing homelessness at its core.
We believe that to address homelessness, we have to tackle it on multiple levels. That is why we provide our emergency shelter through the state Department of Human Services- and United Way-funded Threshold program, which provides 42 beds of short-term emergency shelter with case management support for men and women.
But that isn’t enough. That is why we have our Stable S.M.I.L.E. program, which creates a budget and financial management program that keeps more than 80 individuals on Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance in our community stably housed and keeping their bills paid with needed budget support. This is the only way most of these individuals would be able to be housed and keep their utilities on.
In 2014, Helping Hands kept nearly 100 individuals housed and out of shelters and emergency rooms with this program. Cost to the community for this program? Zero dollars. Savings to the community with this program? Thousands. Each individual pays a $40 monthly fee for financial management and it keeps the program subsidized and costs out of donors’ hands.
Finally, we provide our U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development- and Department of Human Services-funded Hearth House, a permanent housing solution for homeless individuals with accompanying disabilities that includes ongoing long-term (indefinitely if necessary) income-adjusted housing and case management support. Residents of this program pay 30 percent of their income for their rent and utilities and there is no charge if income is zero.
Statistics show individuals cannot really address the big barriers until they are under a roof they can call home. Permanent supported housing also saves the system thousands of dollars per year for every individual served. It is 52 times less expensive than the hospital emergency room and 18 times less expensive than a mental healthcare facility. One program in Denver reduced healthcare costs in their community by nearly 45 percent of what it cost previously to treat the same population.
Helping Hands has 24 units of permanent supported housing, and we hope to be able to increase this in years to come. We believe above all, creating permanent supported housing solutions is the future of ending homelessness in our country and here in Springfield. It ends with greater housing stability and housing satisfaction, and Helping Hands of Springfield has been about that for quite some time.
Do you want to help? There are many ways to become involved in this innovative approach to changing Springfield as we grow into our first forever home.
—Volunteer to provide a meal or give your time helping us clean and prepare our new home.
—Invest in our programs by providing a monthly monetary gift to help cover the cost of consumables such as toilet paper and paper towels or even our utilities.
—Sponsor a project: Paint the walls, carpet the offices and help make our new building a home.
—Donate a commercial refrigerator or commercial washers and dryers for our new laundry room for the homeless that we are going to call Small Change.
—Leave a legacy or honor a loved one with a memorial gift. During our grand opening, a welcome plaque will be placed on the threshold of our new home.
When people give their time, their talents and their treasure to provide for those who face serious barriers, our community wins. Our clients will see these things as a sign when they walk in our doors that people care, people love and people believe in change.
The sign will say Welcome Home, or more appropriately, Welcome Hope.