The Robertson County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Lunch & Learn on Thursday, June 1 at Highland Crest College Campus in Springfield, where it was disclosed that hundreds of local students are homeless.
Lisa Cobb, the parent/school-homeless liaison for Robertson County Schools, said a federal law, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act, helps remove barriers away from homeless children so that they can have success in school.
"Homelessness can be either living in your car, living in your tent or even substandard housing," Cobb said. "This year we reported 300 kids in our county. Yes, we have found kids living in their cars at the Wal-Mart parking lot. We have found people living in tents."
Cobb's office helps supply clothing and school supplies, she said. If they need housing, they try to help.
"No, we don't have all the answers, but sometimes they look at us as being their miracle workers, because they just don't know what else to do," Cobb said. "People in this community care about one another, but sometimes just don't know what to do to help."
Robert Gardner, pastor of City of Faith Church in Springfield, said the Greater Faith Community Action Corporation (GFCAC) began a few years ago after the church began seeing an influx of hungry and homeless coming into the congregation seeking help.
The non-profit organization operates a soup kitchen, the Master's Table and a transitional housing program.
"We have the Isaiah 58 House," Gardner said. "And also the Shelter in Arms facility."
Gardner said the transitional programs allow those being helped to give back to the community and become involved.
"We don't allow them to just sit around the house," Gardner said. "It's a transition of phasing from one phase of their life to the next phase. We help them to progress in their spiritual recovery."
There were 87 clients that went through the GFCAC transitional program in the last year, according to Garner. Not all of those stayed in the housing, but they were all provided some type of service from the corporation.
"The recovery support services range from food provided, or shelter," Gardner said. "Or, we help by assisting them in getting their GED or to get employment. We touch a lot of lives and make contact with a lot of individuals."
Gardner reported that 88-percent of individuals who come into the program receive sustainable employment.
"Forty-two percent actually met the goals they had hoped to achieve when they came into the program," Gardner said. "We don't take everybody. We do background checks and random drug screenings. We do not take sex offenders. The ones who come to us want to be here and they want help."
The program is run by more than 250 part-time volunteers, Gardner said, who do everything from food preparation at the Master's Table to transporting meals and taking individuals to and from work.
Gardner's wife, Peggy Gardner, assists in an Overcomers Program, to help individuals become reacquainted with society.
"I was surprised there was as much homelessness here in Springfield," Peggy Gardner said. "It takes everyone working together, not to keep them in a homeless situation. We have to help them become employed and become active again in the community and get them back on their feet."
For more information on programs offered by GFCAC, visit their web-site at: www.greaterfaithaction.com.