Bill Gordon lives in Sedalia, Missouri. He spoke at the “Breaking it Down: Homelessness in Missouri” event that KBIA and Missouri Heath Talks hosted at Café Berlin on December 6th.
Bill shared his personal experiences with homelessness – having been homeless in Columbia in the 90s and being a graduate of Welcome Home, a group that assists homeless veterans here in town.
Here he reflects on how his time being homeless changed him.
The cold winter months can be especially hard for people experiencing homelessness, but the faith communities in Columbia have collaborated to provide emergency winter shelter since 2008, hosted at various churches around the city – called Room at the Inn.
Jim Jantz and Rockie Alden, who both work with Room at the Inn, spoke about the health issues their guests most often face, as well as the importance of treating everyone with dignity.
Heather Harlan is prevention specialist and adolescent counselor at Phoenix Health Programs in Columbia. She says addiction to drugs like alcohol and tobacco often stems from childhood trauma, and substance use disorders can make it difficult for those experiencing homelessness, in particular, to get help.
She spoke about the importance of primary prevention of substance use disorders and about the challenges these disorders can create for those experiencing homelessness and their families
Teresa and Frankie Graham work with Harvest House, the local homeless shelter in Boonville. Teresa has been the resident manager since May, and Frankie is a longtime volunteer.
They spoke about the sometimes forgotten or overlooked needs of a shelter and what individuals can do to help fight homelessness – sometimes things as easy as calling the local homeless shelter to find out exactly what they need.
Robert Nickles lives in Columbia. He was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and has undergone numerous medical procedures throughout his life - including a colostomy. But there’s a major barrier standing between Robert and a healthy existence: Robert is homeless.
In his own words, he has lived a life that “most people wouldn’t understand.” Robert spoke with KBIA’s Jonah McKeown about the stigma surrounding homelessness and about the barriers he faces getting healthcare.
Katie Burnham Wilkins is the Homeless Program Coordinator at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital, and Blake Witter is the Program Coordinator for HUD-VASH, a program that combines Housing and Urban Development Vouchers with VA services to help homeless veterans get stable housing.
While the exact number of homeless veterans is hard to pin down, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a reportlast year that found that although the number of homeless veterans has overall decreased by 17% since 2015, the number of homeless veterans in Missouri has slightly increased, to nearly 600.
Katie and Blake spoke about the challenges of reaching out to and housing homeless veterans in the Columbia community.
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