Candidates give views on homeless issues

Mar. 6—The number of people without homes who live on the streets and in shelters and those asking for money on busy corridors in Joplin has been shown in several city surveys and studies to be of concern of residents.

Three candidates are seeking two general seats on the Joplin City Council in the April 2 election. They were asked their takeaways on a city-commissioned study by Sharity Global of Winter Haven, Florida, describing the status and causes of the continuing numbers of homeless people. Conclusions and recommendations on how to address the needs for those people are expected to come at council meeting later in March.

The purpose of the study was to work with the city and its partners, including the Homeless Coalition agencies and organizations, to conduct the analysis and develop a strategic plan to address various community matters contributing to homelessness.

The study counted 600 homeless people in Joplin with 400 of those being children and 40 of the children on their own without a parent or adult. The study said the lack of affordable housing is a component of the problem and that another is the lack of a shelter for homeless people that does not have barriers such as not allowing couples or families to be housed together, not allowing pets, and other concerns of those seeking a place to stay.

The candidates are Joshua Bard, 50, a real estate agent; Natasha Klue-Michael, 37, a barber stylist; and incumbent Keenan Cortez, 59, a medical patient experience manager.

Klue-Michael said, "The Sharity report numbers were astounding to me. Especially the number of children who are houseless. The whole community will benefit from the expected results" from final recommendations and conclusions to be provided later this month.

Cortez said the study "is a big positive for our community and my hopes are that it will serve as a tool that will help all those involved in the delivery of services to those in need in our community. Homelessness isn't just a Joplin issue but I am quite proud of the efforts made by many in our community to not ignore it but to address head on and be constant in looking for equitable solutions to a very complex issue."

Bard said the situation is multifaceted. "We have amazing nonprofit organizations, churches and other organizations that do a wonderful job of providing for our homeless community. But this will no doubt be a huge undertaking for everyone involved. I feel that most importantly it starts with the person and the desire to get off the streets. But that in and of itself can be a huge undertaking. From mental health to subsidized housing, this is a multigovernmental issue. The fact that we have 400 children in our community with no place to call home breaks my heart."