SIKESTON -- Local service agencies and churches will participate in number of activities next week to increase awareness about homelessness and hunger.
National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week is scheduled for Nov. 17-22 this year, according to Jane Pfefferkorn, executive director at Mission Missouri.
Pfefferkorn said hunger and homelessness continue to be serious problems not only across the state, but here in Southeast Missouri.
A recent homeless count found a total of 158 homeless in the six-county area of the Bootheel with 53 of those being children, according to Gina Crowley, co-director of the Guardian Angel Overnight Shelter.
"And with the weather getting colder it's going to be an even bigger problem," Crowley said.
Local activities for National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week are being organized and sponsored by the Area Resource Council.
The ARC was established April 4 after area service agency representatives met with the Ministerial Alliance at the Alliance's request to explain what services they provide, according to Pfefferkorn.
ARC's member agencies now include the Ministerial Alliance, Mission Missouri, Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation, Guardian Angel Overnight Shelter, the House of Refuge, Salvation Army, Missouri's Family Support Division and Division of Youth Services, Bootheel Counseling, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Southeast Missouri Food Bank and the Faith Food Network.
"The first thing we did is establish an emergency needs process and that is working really well," Pfefferkorn said. "It eliminates people abusing the system by going from church to church to church."
The process begins with a background check at DPS and includes more accountability.
"We now have an intake process at the Guardian Angel Overnight Shelter," Pfefferkorn said. "The Guardian Angel Overnight Shelter has done a good job of not only not only streamlining services but doing an accounting of every penny."
The cost of providing legitimate needs from Oct. 1-24, for example, totaled $3,786, according to Pfefferkorn.
As there are around 20 churches that are part of the Ministerial Alliance but 65 churches in Sikeston, "our goal is to reach the larger faith community," Pfefferkorn said. "The goal of the Area Resource Council is to not only tap into those resources but also to provide education and awareness to them so they can become more involved in people's lives."
Local activities planned by the ARC for National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week this year include:
* Night Without a Home: Scheduled from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17, local officials will spend time on the streets experiencing what homeless and hungry people go through.
* Community Breakfast: This event, scheduled from 7-8:30 a.m. Nov. 18, will include a pancake breakfast and a special speaker who will recall the climb from homelessness to having a home. Participants from Night Without a Home will also talk about their experience.
* Open House Agency Tours: From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and from 4-6 p.m. Nov. 19, tours will be held at Mission Missouri, 509 Ruth St.; the Guardian Angel Overnight Shelter, 835 Tanner St.; DAEOC Homeless Shelter, 820 Anderson; and the House of Refuge's "New to You" clothes closet, 505 Davis.
* Church Charity Challenge: Churches will collect goods and supplies from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Nov. 21 for area agencies.
* Gathering In: Good and supplies gathered Nov. 21 by area churches will be collected from 9-11 a.m. Nov. 22 at Mission Missouri for distribution. Coffee and doughnuts will be served and pictures will be taken of participating church members.
"If anyone else would like to participate we certainly would like them to," Pfefferkorn said.
In addition to these events children in the local DAEOC and Big Brother Big Sisters programs will participate in the statewide children's poster contest.