(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Crossing Outreach shelter has agreed to partner with Mosaic Life Care, the City of St. Joseph, the St. Joseph Health Department, and other area agencies in tackling homelessness within the community.
The partnership, however, means the shelter will be around longer than originally planned.
On October 15, 2018, The Crossing opened its doors as an emergency shelter after the Salvation Army closed one of its buildings for renovations. The shelter received emergency funds from city council and agreed to a one-year commitment. Two months shy of that one year mark, The Crossing announced a three-year partnership under Mosaic's Urban Mission Project.
"So now it's a three-year commitment for all the agencies to work together, and it's not the perfect solution but at least we're moving forward," Danny Gach, executive director and Pastor at The Crossing, said.
The Urban Mission Project was constructed by Mosaic Life Care as part of its Community Health Needs Assessment. The project's goal is to pull several local agencies together, including Community Action Partnership, the Health Department and Pivotal Point Transitional Housing, to provide services for the homeless all in one place.
"It just happens to be The Crossing is kind of the center of the activity," Gach said. "That could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective, but it's easier to get services done when they're closer together and there are more people helping out rather than just one entity."
Though not everyone said they were thrilled to hear of The Crossing's future plans. On Monday, City Council held a public work session to discuss the Urban Mission Project. Councilman Kent O'Dell voiced concern about the safety of those who live and work in the neighborhood around the shelter at 8th and Messanie Streets.
"To a businessman and to the people who own property around there and who are trying to make a living, it's not what you need in the backyard," O'Dell said. "The bad thing is, so many people are sitting there watching this newscast and they're thinking 'boy, it sure is a good thing [The Crossing is] not down in our neighborhood.'"
Gach and Mosaic were both at the City Council work session and said they believe the project can help decrease some of the issues those in the neighborhood said they're facing.
"Mosaic would like everyone to know that we have heard the comments. The partners in the Urban Mission Project have heard the comments, and we're trying to build strategies around that," Donna Wilson, community health manager for Mosaic, said. "We want neighbors to be happy with The Crossing here."
During the work session, O'Dell mentioned a possible solution for property owners and businesses in the neighborhood. He said there is a plot of land behind the Community Mission's Juda House, at 7th and Olive Streets that could potentially be used as a shelter location.
"It would make a great place to set up a small steel building and stuff, and set up homes and maybe some training courses, training classes or something inside the building," O'Dell said.
He also voiced concerns about identification when The Crossing lets people in and provides overnight shelter.
"I think we need to tighten up down there and get some sort of identification program," O'Dell said. "There are no records of anybody, there are no IDs being checked. They just sign their name and they get a bed. They could be escaped convicts, they could be people on the run, they could be anybody."
Wilson said Mosaic would be open to listening to more long-term solutions to the homeless issues in the area, but added that the Urban Mission Project, with the help of agencies like The Crossing, would aim to fix some of those problems within the next three years.
"It will not create and fix the entire homeless population in St. Joseph, Missouri, but it will hopefully improve this area as well as the lives of the 62 - 75 people that we serve on a daily basis," Wilson said.