SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - In order to help better serve the homeless population in Springfield, leaders of organizations who work to help the vulnerable discussed the issues at hand during a Facebook Live Event.
The executive director of Helping Hands, Erica Smith, said the goal is not about giving people temporary shelter, but rather finding them a permanent home.
"I think when we talk about homelessness, just a general definition is people who are staying in a place that's not fit for human habitation," Smith said. "We want to get as many people out of shelter and back to permanent and independent housing as quick as we can."
Since COVID-19 began, Smith said the emergency shelter has found housing for more than 20 people.
"I think we're at 23 people," Smith said. "We have three more on the list within the next week or two that we've been able to house out of shelter or off the street."
Although leaders have been able to help people obtain permanent housing, Smith said there's still around 70 people living on the streets.
"We do understand, particularly with winter coming, that emergency shelter is a need in our community," Smith said. "We want to be able to meet that as well as we can."
With colder temperatures on the horizon, Smith said something had to be done to help shelter more people. So Helping Hands is renovating their existing space to increase shelter capacity.
"[Capacity] will go from 54 to 71 people," Smith said.
According to Smith, this 17 occupant increase may still not be enough. She said this could be a matter and life of death for homeless citizens of Springfield.
"We have people die on the streets almost monthly in Springfield. That's not new," Smith said. "Particularly when the weather is dangerous and we know it's coming, we need to do everything we can to save people's lives."
Smith said the renovations should be done by mid-to-late October. The funds for the renovations came from local contributions and grants.