Larry Stewart talks to a woman living at the Crossing. He has helped many individuals find ways out of the homeless shelter, including help from their families and also the means to afford apartments of their own.

Emergency shelters provide roofs for homeless individuals in an attempt to hopefully help them turn their lives around.

There are multiple philosophies on how to best do this, but many share the same ultimate goal: Get the individual self-sufficient so they can take care of a home.

Last year, Mosaic Life Care funded the Urban Mission Collaboration — a collaborative effort to address homelessness — at St. Joseph’s largest shelter located at the Crossing Outreach Ministry.

Community Action Partnership is part of the collaboration. Larry Stewart is the community health worker for CAP stationed at the Crossing.

He develops specific plans for the people who stay at the shelter to try to get them back on their own feet.

“It’s not a quota for me, I look at these individuals as people. I’m not trying to say that I need to transition 20 people, you know,” Stewart said. “Our ultimate goal is to eventually get these people safely housed, get these people employed, and let them move on.”

The pilot program sponsored by Mosaic receives $800,000 to $900,000 per year, and is set to last at least three years.

“Being placed here is probably one of the best decisions that Community Action Partnership made,” Stewart said. “Every day it’s different. It’s never the same day twice.”

Stewart graduated from Missouri Western State University with a degree in business. After moving to Kansas City to work in management, he returned to St. Joseph and was convinced by a family member to go into the social welfare field.

Sometimes Stewart reaches out to family members of individuals who stay at the Crossing, but they live outside St. Joseph. At times, like for one woman, the reunifications are emotional.

“I will see what I can do to help them. (The family didn’t) have the resources to be able to come and pick them up, so my job is to work with United Way (or) AFL-CIO,” Stewart said.

Stewart believes one of the most important goals to help individuals turn their lives around at the Crossing is employment.

“If I can get them employed, to get them to even work with the day (labor) force program,” Stewart said. “To at least start earning a paycheck to see what it’s like, to see the average rent and security deposit is going to be x amount of dollars, it gives them a goal to work for.”

The day labor program is a CAP-sponsored initiative, which transports homeless members from the Crossing to clean up different areas of St. Joseph. News-Press NOW has been to two cleanups, one at Riverfront Park and the other along The Parkway System.

The secret may be out on Stewart, as his reputation for helping homeless individuals navigate the system and improve themselves grows.

Bill Martin was one of those individuals. He was living at the Crossing, but after finding out he could receive disability benefits through Social Security, he can now afford his own apartment. Martin regularly walks around Downtown St. Joseph during the day with a garbage can, picking up trash with a grabber.

“I have a lot of people that actually come and see me — they don’t actually stay at the shelter,” Stewart said. “I’m actually helping more people outside of the shelter.”

Ryan Hennessy can be reached


Follow him on twitter: @NPNowHennessy.