Stop for a moment and picture the face of homelessness. Is the picture in your mind someone who works two jobs? Do you see a loving wife and the mother of three children? Does your picture show a twenty-two-year-old working towards a goal to graduate from college? The residents at Hillcrest Platte County are all those things – families, college students, hard-working single mothers.
I confess, prior to my employment with Hillcrest Platte County, the face of homelessness for me was the man dressed in rags panning for spare change on the corner of North Oak Trafficway or the huddle of six to eight people living under the downtown bridge. In my mind, homeless people suffered from mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought Krista, a well versed, single mother who works full time could be homeless, but she is. Krista has been a resident with Hillcrest Platte County since August of last year. As a single parent, Krista has faced a lot of barriers while trying to crawl out of poverty and homelessness but her hard work and perseverance toward independence, and most
of all, toward a gratifying life is paying off. Krista graduated from the HPC program on December 17th.
As an “outsider” to Hillcrest Platte County, coming “inside” as an employee, I have soaked up so much wisdom in the short amount of time I’ve been on staff around the topic of what I call “economically homeless.” These people are cloaked in a deceptive, superficial image. They do not sleep outside or on cots on armory floors. Rather, they sleep in their cars or “couch surf” at various relatives or friends’ homes. By and large, their shoes are good; some have smartphones. Many get up each morning and leave to go to work or to school. Their hardship of simply making enough income to pay for rent, gas and food exists out of sight.
Hillcrest Platte County hosts various programs and tools to help the economically homeless transition to safe, affordable and permanent housing. Through budget counselors, life skills classes, assigned case workers and simply showing love and compassion, HPC is helping to give the confidence and wisdom our residents so desperately desire and need to conquer homelessness.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe He calls and empowers us to bring God’s loving Kingdom to earth, where wrongs will be righted, the oppressed will be freed and the “last shall be first”. If we want to start seeing the devastating effects of poverty and homelessness erased, it simply starts by “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” I can honestly say the staff and the volunteers of Hillcrest Platte County pour out their hearts in executing change and improving lives!
Betsy Calmer, Communications Coordinator for Hillcrest Platte County. Betsy relocated to Kansas City from Jefferson City, MO where she was a columnist for the Jefferson City News Tribune. She and her husband, Chris have six children and six grandchildren. Betsy’s background is in public relations and communications, having worked for the Central Missouri Foodbank and the Missouri Baptist Foundation.