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Community leaders discuss how to help ill or injured homeless

As Joyce Stevenson pursues a higher degree in nursing, she's also taking on a community project.

December 05, 2012|by Linda Russell, KY3 News | lrussell@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Where to send the homeless when they're ill or injured; That's the challenge some in Springfield are now embracing.

It's an issue that hospitals, shelters and other agencies have dealt with for a long time, but because of a nursing student's desire to make a difference, the community is looking for a solution.

Springfield's homeless shelters remain filled to capacity.  That leaves One Door, which helps the homeless find services, in a tough position. 

"When someone will show up in our office, and they need a place to stay, there's a waiting list, and that problem just gets magnified if you've had an injury, you've had a serous illness or surgery, and you've recently been released from a hospital," said One Door Director Michelle McCoy.

It leaves the ill or injured with nowhere to go.  Sometimes, hospitals will keep a homeless patient longer than necessary.  "Which is a huge cost, obviously to the hospitals.  They're not technically ill enough to require hospitalization, but they're not well enough to be on the street either," said McCoy.

It's a problem Joyce Stevenson saw in her 15 years as a Cox North ER nurse. 

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"We see more and more of the homeless population having no place to go after discharge from the hospital," said Stevenson.

As Stevenson pursues a higher degree in nursing, she's also taking on the issue as a community project. 

"The more I researched, the more passionate I became about the project," Stevenson said.

She invited more than thirty leaders from the Springfield community, including hospitals and homeless shelters, to meet and discuss the problem.  "The turnout was phenomenal," Stevenson said.

"The point of today's meeting was just to get the word out and start brainstorming," McCoy said.

Those involved hope it all leads to a place where the homeless can get the rest and recuperation they need. 

"It's going to help these shelters to relieve the pressure off of the them, trying to find a way to help and not really having the means to, and it's going to profit the hospitals by helping them reduce re-admissions and lengths of stays," Stevenson said.

The group will meet again on January 8th.  Right now, when there is no shelter space for someone who is ill or injured, there are a limited number of hotel vouchers that are sometimes used, or a woman may be sent to the women's Safe to Sleep program, but that's only a place to rest at night.

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