The Springfield chapter of the NAACP has created an Economic Justice Task Force to address — among several other issues — the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless community, especially in cold weather.
“This effort seeks to advocate for justice and change in our community in areas related to poverty and homelessness. The core values of the NAACP which include; Economic Opportunity, Health, Education, Criminal Justice, and Local and Federal Advocacy all call us to action to address gaps in policies, practices, and the way that people are viewed and treated in our city,” a post on the NAACP’s Facebook page read.
The task force will be a yearlong collaborative effort between the NAACP’s Religious Affairs Committee, Housing Committee, and the Women in the NAACP committee. Its first meeting will be via Zoom on Friday.
Brentwood Christian Church Rev. Phil Snider is among the several faith leaders who have been tapped to serve on the task force. There are also people involved in housing, as well as homeless advocates and people who have lived experience with homelessness.
“The concerns surrounding homelessness in Springfield and the Ozarks are immense,” Snider said. “Our rates of poverty are off the charts and as a community, we’ve got to come together in all facets: people of faith and people of good faith who may not necessarily be religious. It just takes all of us coming together to do what we can for the common good of everybody in our community.”
According to the social media post, the group will meet regularly to advance the following 11 issues through conversation, advocacy, and efforts to bring about positive and needed change in our community:
- The immediate impact of COVID-19 on the unsheltered — especially in cold weather;
- Addressing the gaps in current systems and policies toward the unsheltered members of our community;
- The need for an additional day shelter in our community;
- Working to decriminalize homelessness and re-establishing Homeless Court in our community;
- Discussions with local medical care centers about discharge policies and public health practices;
- The creation of crisis shelters for families, children, and teens;
- Springfield’s skyrocketing poverty rate which is double the national average;
- The lack of safe, affordable housing in our community;
- The need for expanded mental health and addiction resources for those in poverty and with limited medical coverage;
- Addressing the heightened vulnerability of women in poverty, domestic violence situations, and homelessness;
- Raising public awareness and providing education about the current realities of poverty and homelessness in our community.
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The task force is made up of faith leaders, community advocates, those working directly with members of our community who are impacted by poverty, and individuals with lived experience on the streets of Springfield, the post said.
Task force members include:
- Christie Love: The Connecting Grounds, Religious Affairs Co-Chair NAACP
- Tracey Wolff: UMC Field Ministry, Religious Affairs Co-Chair NAACP
- Isabelle Walker: Member, National Association of REALTORS, Housing Chair NAACP
- Kaijuanda Sutton: Community Advocate, Women in NACCP Chair
- Ashley Quinn: National Avenue Community Church
- Jenn Simmons: National Avenue Community Church
- Ben Stringer: The Venues
- Phil Snider: Brentwood Christian Church
- Emily Bowen Marler: Brentwood Christian Church
- Katie Kring: Springfield Street Choir
- Larry Flenoid: Real Love, Real Change
- Leonard B. Horton: senior instructor of journalism, Missouri State University, member of the National Association of REALTORS
- Paul Sartin: Lived experience with homelessness
- John Reier: Lived experience with homelessness
- Andrea Natal: The Connecting Grounds
- Katrin Scott: The Connecting Grounds
- Annie Busch: Retired executive director of the Springfield-Greene County Library and community advocate
- Chris Rice: Veterans Coming Home Center
- Katie Kepley: Veterans Coming Home Center
- Pat Johnson: Retired nurse and homeless advocate
Additional members may be added to the group as work progresses over the next few months, the Springfield NAACP said, promising regular monthly updates on its website and Facebook page.
Snider said he appreciates that the task force is including people who have lived experience with homelessness, as well as those who are directly serving the population every day.
“I’m someone who has longtime been a part of a progressive faith community in Springfield that emphasized a lot of reaching out and such,” Snider said. “But oftentimes I’ve done that from a distance without really knowing any unsheltered friends or neighbors.
“Those experiences and interactions with our unsheltered friends are really transformative,” he said. “I’m really glad (Pastor Love) has put together a group of people that will really help us understand from an experiential standpoint, not just a theoretical or ideological standpoint.”