Homelessness was never a problem confined to one particular service agency or even a single part of town. It was never going to be solved on the basis of a check from Mosaic Life Care.
But the check did help.
Mosaic’s decision to pull future funding from The Crossing Outreach Ministry represents a setback in the ongoing efforts to provide immediate shelter and long-term transitional assistance to St. Joseph’s homeless population. Mosaic provided around $800,000 a year to the Urban Mission Collaboration, which coordinates services to help provide health care, substance abuse treatment, employment, education, housing and other assistance.
It was a key source of funding for The Crossing, a 60-bed shelter at 701 S. Eighth St., but that type of contribution may have been increasingly difficult for Mosaic to justify. The coronavirus pandemic postponed elective procedures and damaged the financial position of hospitals across the country. Mosaic didn’t go into details, but its decision may have illustrated how the economic fallout of the coronavirus leaves no entity untouched.
Business and property owners south of Downtown could vouch for that sentiment. For them, the loss of funding will raise concerns about the ability to get a handle on St. Joseph’s homeless problem. In the past, property owners have pointed to issues with vandalism, trespassing, property damage and crime associated with a cluster of homeless individuals. For these property owners, it might appear as if the clock is ticking.
Right now, temperatures are poised to reach into the 80s this weekend. St. Joseph’s latest unemployment report put the city’s jobless rate at 4.1% in March.
If you fast forward to the end of the year, it will certainly be colder and there very likely will be more economic distress and people counted as homeless.
This is significant because the last major recession, about a decade ago, brought us a tent city on the banks of the Missouri River. That type of encampment is now illegal, but the homeless don’t always follow the letter of the law.
That means the problem is likely to get more acute in the second half of 2020.
Something tells us that Mosaic, which played a significant role in supporting the infrastructure to support the homeless, isn’t finished being part of a solution. But it’s also clear, from the hospital’s recent decision, that homelessness is a community problem that’s going to require a community response from government, service agencies and the private sector.
It’s shorts and T-shirt weather right now. Let’s start the discussion before the sweaters and jackets come back out.