Lack of shelters in Springfield could leave homeless women and children out in the cold

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Homelessness continues to be a problem throughout the Ozarks.

It becomes dangerous once winter hits.

This year a lack of shelters in Springfield could leave homeless women and children out in the cold.

The amount of people who live below the poverty level in Springfield is nearly 26 percent. This is a larger amount than the statewide average of 15 percent.

A city law put in place more than a decade ago is making it difficult to help those in need. Officials are working to change that.

Phillip Worden says, "We're not really scary. We're just people that's down on our luck."

"And don't really have any place to live," says his wife Leanna Worden.

They are a part of Springfield's homeless community.

"People that are rude and say get a job, we're like, you're just one paycheck away from being in this situation," explains Phillip Worden.

The couple constantly worries about their safety.

"Recently, I've had to sleep with a knife under my pillow just to protect me and my wife and my unborn child," says Phillip Worden.

As the temperature starts to drop their worries increase.

Phillip Worden says, "Trying to find a warm spot to sleep."

"I can't go from cold to heat because of my epilepsy," explains Leanna Worden.

"When it's 32 degrees outside people should have a place to to go," says Amanda Stadler with the Community Partnership of the Ozarks.

The group works with other organizations to help the homeless population. This year, they are facing new challenges.

This year, just with other shelters being at capacity, we really anticipate that that will be a dire need for women specifically this winter," says Stadler.

She says there are established shelters for men. However, resources are thin for the rest of the homeless population.

"When I heard that there was kind of a shortage of shelter space, particularly for women and children going into the cold weather season I knew it was our obligation to take a look at what mechanisms we have in place," says Cora Scott, Director of Public Information and Civic Engagement for Springfield.

City leaders took a closer look at the economic and housing access calamity ordinance put in place nearly a decade ago.

They learned that if an agency or church wanted to help during a time of crisis, they'd face some restrictions. If the entities are able to meet city building, safety and health codes they could provide food and lodging and not be considered a shelter.

However, there are strict guidelines about distance of the facility and who runs it.

This quickly initiated talks to change that.

Stadler says, "Just to have that fast turnaround and to have, you know, we know we have that support but to really see that support in that way was really awesome."

"It makes us feel a little, hey people are trying, some people are trying to help. Some people actually do care, says Phillip Worden.

This is just the start of the process towards an emergency shelter solution.

City leaders are working on an ordinance change to bring to council in the next few weeks.