SJ-R Sunday Column – A home for the holidays

As originally published in the Our Towns section of The State Journal Register.

This is the time of year I get asked more than any other question: Why do we have so many panhandlers on our corners with signs waving when we have shelters in our community?

While I cannot speak for those who wave signs asking for your dollars, what I can do is inform you of the valuable services offered to help all people seeking help and what your dollar can do to help them do it. Did you know our community has three emergency shelters dedicated to serving the homeless? Contact Ministries helps women and women with children. Helping Hands of Springfield helps adult men and women. The Winter Warming Center (operated by Helping Hands of Springfield through funding by the City of Springfield) helps the most vulnerable at-risk men and women from the streets of Springfield to keep them safe from the cold. The cost to provide these services are fractional compared to the costs of them living on the streets in our community.

But how can you help with these tasks? How can you really help the homeless? There are three valuable ways you can help serve those in our community that are most at risk.

Donate your time: Do you feel called to volunteer and work with the homeless directly? You might enjoy teaching a life skills class to clients. We also have openings to help run our day services. The duties include answering the phone, checking for client mail and scheduling appointments with the case managers. Or if you’d rather work behind the scenes, do you have professional talents that our agency might need? We are currently looking for a graphic designer to help with our newsletter.

Donate your resources: The cost to run our emergency shelter for a day is around $600 dollars. That is $13.25 per individual per day. A gift of $100 dollars would shelter an individual for a week! If you would like to donate both your time and resources, please consider providing and serving an evening meal to clients.

Donate shelter supplies: The shelter is continuously in need of many supply items, including: toilet paper and paper towels, meal service supplies (plates, napkins, utensils), 8oz. Styrofoam cups, coffee, creamer and sugar, stamps, bus tokens, cleaning supplies. Travel size personal care items, such as shampoo and soap and toothpaste are always needed. You can find our entire wish list on our website at www.helpinghandsofspringfield.org.

These measurable ways are actions you can take that will help make a difference in the lives of homeless in our community and will help us continue to provide these valuable services.

This past year, Helping Hands of Springfield has been able to provide over 550 individuals with 16,000 nights of emergency shelter and meals through our Threshold Emergency Shelter. We are also currently serving 130 people with life-stabilizing money management services for those in need of a money manager through our STABLE Smile program and 24 individuals with income-adjusted housing and case management support in our Hearth House Permanent Supported Housing program.

St. Francis of Assisi once said “For it is in giving, that we receive.” Helping Hands of Springfield is so very blessed to have such incredible community support.

Written by Amy Voils.  Amy Voils is the executive director at Helping Hands of Springfield, Inc. Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.