(St. Joseph,MO) The Booth Center will stop admitting people on May 24, and temporarily close its doors on May 31. The Salvation Army plans to renovate the living spaces inside the center and reopen to provide housing exclusively for homeless families.
Salvation Army, Kansas And Western Missouri Divisional Secretary Major David Harvey said the change comes after an 18 month evaluation of the center and the community’s needs.
"Right now it's congregate living and congregate feeding program that happens for 24 hour care. We are going to change that facility to more of family units, apartment styles so that families have their own kitchenettes, have their own bathrooms, [and] can train them to be more independent," Harvey said.
Harvey said the renovations will be modeled after the Salvation Army center in Olathe,Kansas and will be designed to give families more privacy and independence.
“Instead of having night staff watch them [residents],now we can invest in real change agents, who are the social workers, who can help them overcome their problems so they’re not stuck in poverty,” Harvey said.
United Way President Kylee Strough said if the Booth Center is only available to families, it will leave several homeless men and women with nowhere to go.
"When I think about chronically homeless I don't think about multi-generation families, I think usually about a single individual or a couple and they have been homeless for an extended period of time," Strough said.
Agencies like Community Missions and the YWCA provide seasonal shelters and long term housing programs, but short term housing is harder to come by in St.Joseph.
"For emergency shelter, there really aren't any other options in our community," Strough said. “There are no other emergency shelters for men and there are very few women that can get into the YWCA if they don’t have a history of domestic violence in their background.”
The United Way of St.Joseph assembled the Homeless Strategies and Emergency Response Task Force. The task force is comprised of area agencies including the YWCA, Community Missions, Mosaic Life Care, Interserv, Salvation Army and Home Base, working to come up with solutions to help the 18 individuals currently living in the Booth Center.
"I don’t think it's the city's issue, or the county's issue or the Salvation Army's issue, or a single agencies issue, it's the community. That's why we are trying to facilitate some community conversation around it, because we have to work together to address it," Strough said.
Harvey said he expects the renovations to be completed and the center to reopen in nine to twelve months. The task force will host two community sessions next week to discuss possible options for preserving resources for the homeless. The sessions will be on Monday, May 21 from 1- 3 p.m. and Tuesday, May 22 from 5:30- 7:30 p.m. at United Way building at 118 South 5th Street.
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