The kitchen has a new home and a focus on finding housing for the homeless

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – It was in 1983 that Sister Lorraine Biebel began serving meals to the hungry in Springfield.

So now when many people think of The Kitchen, the non-profit organization she founded, they probably remember the soup kitchen that fed the homeless population of Commercial Street and the congregate housing that The Kitchen offered at the Missouri Hotel.

But times are changing.

At their open house on Wednesday, The Kitchen welcomed the public to their new headquarters at 730 North Glenstone Avenue.

The administrative part of the headquarters was actually moved to the current location in November 2020. Yet the pandemic has prevented the general public from having a chance to see the new excavations, which consist of two major structures on what it’s called the O’Reilly Family Campus.

The Kitchen Emergency Shelter comprises 13 apartments to provide emergency shelter for families until permanent accommodation can be found. Meanwhile, the Sam F. and June S. Hamra Family Support Services Building houses The Kitchen’s Community Housing and Home at Last programs, housing operations office, donation center, and offices administrative.

“While we are very grateful for our buildings and the time spent on Commercial Street, these buildings were old and expensive to bring them to the condition they needed,” explained Meleah Spencer, CEO of The Kitchen. “So we decided for our future that we needed to find a different place with buildings that would last and be more sustainable. Fortunately the O’Reilly family and Mr. and Mrs. Hamra helped us to finally have buildings that represent our values ​​of dignity, respect, quality, service and compassion that we were able to give back to our participants at a like we have never been able to do this before.

Sam and June Hamra were at the open house, as was Charlie O’Reilly representing the O’Reilly family.

“I think it’s all God’s work, really,” Sam Hamra said. “I’m very attached to that. I think he took the O’Reilly and Hamra families and said, ‘They are people in need. Do them good! And we’re happy to do it because we’ve been blessed.

“My grandfather and my father started our family off on the right foot saying that if we are successful, we have to give back to the community,” Charlie O’Reilly added. “The Kitchen has done a great job of returning to Sister Loraine and the soup kitchen and fast-forwarding years later to where The Kitchen’s mission has really changed.”

This mission has shifted from a focus on providing food to providing housing and services.

“If we’re going to end homelessness, we need to have more affordable housing,” Spencer said. “A report I saw said that around 14,000 units are still needed in our area.”

La Cuisine now offers five programs:

— Affordable housing developments that provide 222 affordable housing units to the Springfield community with five housing properties that offer apartments, townhouses and duplexes, including Beacon Village and Maplewood Villas still under construction.

–Community housing program that provides housing assistance and case management for families, individuals, youth and seniors experiencing homelessness.

— The emergency shelter that was mentioned earlier.

— The Home at Last program provides housing assistance and case management to veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

–Rare Breed Youth Services provides free, confidential services to at-risk and homeless youth ages 13-24.

Wednesday’s open house also included portraits of local homeless people by Pam Atkinson Vowell, who took to the streets to meet her subjects.

“There’s a lot of sadness in their stories and a lot of resilience too,” Vowell said. “They are strong people who can find their own way but need our help.”

Pam admitted the experience changed her view of homelessness and made her realize it could happen to anyone.

“In several cases, the story I heard was, ‘We’re doing fine, we’re doing fine, just a paycheck. And then all of a sudden, we are on the street! It really struck me. They are like us, except they have encountered this problem.

“If someone is paying more than 30% of their take home pay just for their rent, they risk becoming homeless,” Spencer added.

But as the homeless population continues to grow, so too do efforts to provide hope.

“We feel overwhelmed with need,” Spencer said, her voice cracking. “But we also feel overwhelmed by the love and care from this community. And this building wouldn’t be here without this overwhelming attention in our community. »

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