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Lobby Day for Homeless in Jefferson City

A group of homeless people or those who have been homeless are lobbying in Jefferson City today. (Matthew Woitunski/Wikimedia Commons)
A group of homeless people or those who have been homeless are lobbying in Jefferson City today. (Matthew Woitunski/Wikimedia Commons)
April 27, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A group of homeless people in Missouri was to visit the state Capitol today to remind lawmakers that the homeless need legislation passed to help them get back on their feet.

The annual advocacy trip to the Capitol is put together by the nonprofit group ReStart. Evelyn Craig, its director and chief executive, said the group wants to encourage Missouri lawmakers to pass reforms in the state's landlord/tenant laws.

She said legislation approved in St. Louis and neighboring states gives people more time before they're evicted if they fall behind on rent. Programs such as ReStart could then serve as a middleman between a family and the landlord, she said.

"We could come in and say, 'Can this relationship be fixed? Do you just need rent paid?' We can do that and work with the family over a period of time," she said. "If it is such that the tenants can no longer stay, we will negotiate to say, 'Can they stay 30 more days while we will find them another place?'"

The group of homeless residents is touring the Capitol and meeting with lawmakers and staff from the Veterans Commission, Department of Corrections and Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Craig said more needs to be done in Missouri to make sure families don't get evicted, because once that happens it's hard for them to find another place to live, and sometimes they end up on the street. She said just one eviction starts the ball rolling.

"If you have an eviction on your record, it makes it harder, obviously, to get re-housed," she said, "and then you're usually in substandard housing, so it perpetuates landlords who aren't in compliance. They know folks are desperate to get into their units, and quite frankly, it's just a matter of what happens in life before you're going to be behind on rent again."

There are around 6,500 people homeless on any given night in Missouri, according to a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Across the nation, that number is around 565,000. Nearly a quarter of those homeless people are children.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO