SIKESTON -- Rarely will a homeless person be found living in a cardboard box under an overpass or on the streets of Sikeston. Instead they're more likely to be found sleeping on the floor at a relative's home.
"Most homeless people in the area are living with family members," said Marlene Anglin, coordinator of Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation's Homeless Project in Sikeston.
The DAEOC Homeless Project consists of an emergency shelter and six transitional homes located in Sikeston. For over 20 years the project has worked to provide assistance for homeless people in the area to become self-
But Anglin said many local residents are still unaware of the program. "We want people to know we're here, and there are homeless people in Sikeston," Anglin said.
In an effort to increase awareness, Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation's Homeless Project, held an open house last week to promote National Homeless Awareness Month.
"Once they get in here, we provide them with shelter and focus on shifting to make changes in their lives so they're better equipped and put into a stable home," Anglin said.
A big misconception is that homeless people are unemployed, Anglin said. But a large number are already employed when they become homeless because they don't make enough money to pay rent. As a result, they miss a lot of work to find another place to live and lose their jobs.
"A majority cannot afford fair market rent. The living wage is $11.12 an hour, and there's no way a person can afford rent working at minimum wage ($5.15 an hour)," said DAEOC housing director Tasha Treece.
So the homeless will start living with a family member, but then it puts their relatives at risk for losing their home due to overcrowding.
Typically family members refer their loved ones to the shelter, Anglin said. Others are referred through social workers, case workers and other organizations and agencies.
Families are allowed to stay at the shelter for 90 days. A food pantry, linens, cleaning supplies, etc. are available at the shelter for residents along with a washer and dryer.
"We stay full," Anglin said. "The fact we have a waiting list that rarely drops below 20 families is a good indication that homeless people are in Sikeston." Currently seven children are living in the shelter and 13 in the transitional housing, Anglin said.
From the shelter, successful families move to one of the six transitional homes. Transitional housing is defined as housing from 30 days to two years in which supportive services are provided to prepare homeless families for independent living and economic self-reliance.
"A majority of the homeless who stay here are already in Sikeston. If their roots aren't in Sikeston then they moved to Sikeston because they thought they could get a job," Anglin said.
Since becoming the project's case manager about a year ago, Gina Smart admitted there's more need for a homeless shelter than she realized.
"There will always be a stereotype of a homeless person, but they're just like me and you," Smart said.
As case manager, Smart said it's her job to help prepare the shelter residents to become self-sufficient.
"They're required to get jobs or go to school, and we give them resources to do that," Smart said.
And Smart teaches residents classes on life skills, building their self esteem, setting goals and interviewing techniques.
"Most people are really attentive and motivated," Smart said. "There have been people who were unsuccessful in the program, but a greater percentage come here and succeed."
Smart said the residents have to come willing to change.
"All of the resources are here and it's up to them to take it and be successful with it," Smart said. "It takes hard work, but there's no reason they can't be successful."
Once they get a job, they have two months to save money before leaving the transitional housing.
"There's nothing wrong with getting assistance as long as they better their selves and use it for advancing their selves," Smart said.
The project is operated with funding provided by Community Service Block Grants.
DAEOC officials said the program is successful. From January through July, nine families secured and maintained permanent housing, 11 individuals secured and maintained employment, one individual graduated from high school, two individuals received their GEDs and one individual was accepted into LPN school.
Smart said people in the area need to be aware that homelessness is an issue.
"Don't stereotype," Smart said. "You never know- it might happen to you someday."
The shelter office, located at 820 Anderson St., is open Monday through Friday. For more information, call 471-6014.