Missouri homeless shelters are already reaching capacity due to cold weather
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Missouri homeless shelters are already reaching capacity due to cold weather

Date: December 10, 2014
By: Nicole Shaddy
State Capitol Bureau

As people celebrate the holidays this winter, many Missourians don't have their own place to call home, and emergency shelters face overcrowding problems.
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Wrap: Jefferson City Salvation Army homeless shelter director Tyreka Brandon said in October that all of their rooms were already full.

Because of the cold weather the past few months, Brandon said the shelter has seen more and more people come to its doors.

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Description: "We do see it reach capacity and I mean an overhwelming where it's continuous. Um because when I began here it was in the middle of winter so I can tell you firsthand how much it's changed."

And an increase in the Missouri homeless population has been a statewide trend over the past few years.

According to data released by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department in 2013, the state of Missouri saw a 37.4 percent increase in its homeless population between 2007 and 2013. This increase was one of the five largest in the United States.

Missouri Housing Development Commission spokesperson Sarah Parsons said this increase is due to a number of issues.

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Description: "I would say the accesibility to affordable housing, transportation is always a major issue for the homeless population. Inclement weather can sometimes cause problems where people cannot get around, they lose their jobs. Just job opportunities in general, specifically in the winter months where tourism is down and so that can sometimes cause issues for people to not have employment opportunities."

The Housing Development Commission provides funding assistance to multiple homeless and housing programs across the state through the Missouri Housing Trust Fund created by the state legislature in 1994. The trust fund is the state program that provides the majority of assistance for homeless programs according to Parsons from the MHDC.            

It is funded by a 3 dollar recording fee on all real estate documents in the state, and when the housing market crashed in 2008, it took a major hit. 

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Description: "The fund fluctuates, it has fluctuated over the years, uh for example in 2007 we allocated 6.3 million dollars to eligible applicants and for 2015 we only have 3.2 million available."

Jefferson City shelter director Brandon said she's seen firsthand how the recession has affected the homeless in the state.

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Description: "I think right now just employment as a whole is really hard, it's hard to obtain and so right now it's even more difficult with someone who's lost everything and so I think that's kind of a big thing right now."

For now, Brandon says the shelter is doing what it can to help as many people as possible during the winter months. However, Parsons said there is often not enough space in most shelters around the state at this time of the year.

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Description: "Of course people are going to try to seek shelter in the winter. You know there are people who do live in tents in the winter. We conduct our counts, our point in time counts, homeless counts, in January and we do find families living in tents and campers but generally our shelters are at max capacity throughout the winter."

And Brandon says it's very difficult for her to have to turn people away when the weather is cold.

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Description: "It's really, it's a heartbreaking thing because when you have to tell someone that we're at capacity and when they say well where am I supposed to go and where, you know we're offering different, you know, different resources in the Columbia area because we're unable to provide any here."

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Nicole Shaddy.