Local Agencies Create Plan for Extreme Weather Sheltering: Volunteers Needed!
Cape Girardeau – Each year when temperatures drop, local service agencies and concerned citizens struggle to find temporary housing for the homeless. This year multiple organizations are working together to create a well-defined plan to provide overnight shelter at The Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau during extreme winter weather. Volunteers interested in helping must take a three-hour Safe from Harm training that will be offered Sunday, October 9, from 1-4 pm at The Salvation Army, 701 Good Hope Street in Cape Girardeau.
For years local agencies have struggled with a place to temporarily house the homeless as there is no homeless shelter in the area. This year board members of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) began discussions in June to address this issue. The EFSP is a federal program that distributes funding to human service agencies across the country with the help of United Way in each community. United Way of Southeast Missouri calls meetings and distributes EFSP information to local agencies providing emergency food and shelter whose representatives sit on the decision-making board. Those involved in the extreme weather initiative include: The Salvation Army, Safe House of Southeast Missouri, The American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Catholic Social Ministries, Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri, East Missouri Action Agency, and United Way of Southeast Missouri.
Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director of United Way of Southeast Missouri explains, “The members of the EFSP board had hoped we could set aside some EFSP funds to provide overnight shelter in extreme weather. We have since learned restrictions on these funds won’t allow that, but we are still moving forward to develop a solution. We have seen the outpouring of concern from local citizens, and we believe the support will come—whether it be financial donations, volunteers, or donations of canned goods.”
Providing overnight shelter to our homeless population during extreme winter weather is a serious problem in our community, where the only regional options include the Amen Center in Advance and the Safe House of Southeast Missouri, specific to victims of domestic violence. St. James AME Church and many volunteers responded by opening The People’s Shelter, which was not sustainable. This year The Salvation Army plans to open its newly renovated gymnasium when a winter storm event is eminent. Those seeking shelter will be able to receive food and overnight shelter during these times.
Safety of guests and volunteers is critical. The Salvation Army must follow the requirements established by their headquarters to open the facility overnight. These include separate spaces for men, women and children, providing pre-packaged food or meals prepared at their facility, and requiring all volunteers to undergo their approved Safe from Harm training.
Safe from Harm is The Salvation Army’s comprehensive safety and abuse prevention training that prepares volunteers with best practices and procedures for working with vulnerable children and adults. The October 9 training will be the only one offered as The Salvation Army prepares for their Red Kettle Campaign, also in need of volunteers. Safe from Harm volunteers must register by October 6 and pass a background check. Interested volunteers can register by emailing email@example.com or calling 573-335-7000.