Homelessness in Pulaski County is more of an issue than the average person might think. The Daily Guide and its sister papers, the Rolla Daily News, and the Lake Sun Leader collaborated on a story about homeless students in our region earlier this year and discovered that there are more than 1,000 estimated students considered homeless by their school districts in the region.
The Daily Guide has covered this issue several times over the years, even doing a three part series on it several years ago discussing what homelessness looks like in Pulaski County. Homelessness in Pulaski County isn't the grizzled old man sleeping under the overpass, for the most part. It's families and children couch surfing, sleeping in cars, living in hotels or even camp grounds, and unsure where they might be living from one week to the next.
One man's vision hopes to end homelessness, not only in Pulaski County, but in areas around the country. Willie T. Cobb founded God's House Homeless Rehabilitation Center, a calling Cobb said he got from God 11 years ago.
Cobb, who is a transplant to St. Robert from New York and Florida, started God's House while in Jacksonville, Florida. He landed in the local area when his daughter, an active duty soldier, needed help with childcare. Cobb and his wife made the move to Pulaski County to help.
"I fell in love with the area," Cobb told the Daily Guide in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
Cobb said he loves the spirit of community, all the opportunity to spend time outdoors, and he enjoys fishing. He said he noticed that homelessness was a problem here as well and decided to bring God's House to Pulaski County.
God's House Homeless Rehabilitation Center is not a homeless shelter, according to Cobb. Cobb's concept includes education, training, and a rejection of state assistance. He told the Daily Guide that as soon as someone entered God's House they would have to give up assistance such as food stamps so that they could learn self-sufficiency.
Cobb said he comes to the idea from a place of experience. He told the Daily Guide that he owned a successful contracting business and his wife worked as well. He experienced some serious health problems, had not managed his money well, and had to quit working for a time. Then his wife lost her job and they ended up homeless themselves for about six months several years ago.
He'd had the calling for God's House before he became homeless himself and felt that he had to "walk in those shoes" to understand the true need.
"I believe wholeheartedly that God allowed me to experience many of these day-to-day obstacles and struggles that I might better serve those that pass through the doors of God's House," Cobb said in a testimonial on the God's House website at www.gods-house.org.
Cobb said the idea behind God's House is to serve as a rehabilitation center for the homeless. The organization intends to address the underlying issues that contributed to each individual's homelessness whether its addiction, poor education, lack of skills, or other issues.
God's House has teamed up with H.O.P.E. Inc., an organization serving homeless youth that is based in Rolla. The two organizations are working toward the goal of ending homelessness.
Programs that God's House hopes to provide or help support include temporary housing, social services, substance abuse rehabilitation, GED, vocational, computer and technical training, job readiness and placement, a second chance program for probation and parolees, money management classes, parenting classes, recreational rehabilitation, and community service programs.
Cobb admits that God's House is an ambitious project, but he has faith that his organization can make hit happen and he's currently reaching out to the community and its leaders to begin making it happen.
Cobb is already looking at property in the county to place the facility, as well as funding to buy it and start building. In that vein, the fundraising has already began.
God's House and H.O.P.E. Inc. will be hosting a walk-a-thon in Waynesville, Participants are invited to come out to Waynesville City Park on Saturday, September 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to participate.
The organizations are hoping to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness in the Ozarks as well as raise funds to help combat the problem. Walkers can find sponsorship and help raise money for the cause or they can participate to raise awareness for the issue.
The organizations are also seeking donations for the raffle that will be held during the event. Prizes will be awarded to walkers as well.
Additionally, there will be entertainment, food, drinks, vendors and a family-friendly atmosphere.
“The purpose of the event is to bring about awareness to the homeless situation in the rural areas, the lack of resources for the area, and the ways in which we can find solutions to this problem,” the event listing on Facebook said.
Cobb told the Daily Guide that he ultimately hopes to provide a hand up, not a handout to the homeless in Pulaski County.
“This event will help fund the programs of our organizations that provide the necessary resources needed to help those in need become productive members of our communities. We hope to communicate the important message about the homeless epidemic in our communities and to bring awareness on how we can help change its course by doing our part to give back to the community as a whole,” a letter written by the two organizations explained.
To learn more...
Visit the following places on the internet to find out more information about the event and the organizations hosting it: