When the new management of the Harvest House took over in December, Boonville’s shelter for homeless people had 10 residents. By February, there were 45 people staying there.
The new board of directors, including Dan and Patti Brewer, Jennifer Myers and Ed Noser, opened up more rooms in the house, hoping to help more people get back on their feet. The house has been able to help more people, but growing the house so much has also brought its share of challenges.
The Boonville Police Department has responded to 25 calls to the Harvest House since the beginning of the year, and that doesn’t include the times it’s been called to deal with a Harvest House resident somewhere else in town, according to Boonville Police Chief Bobby Welliver. There’s been an increase in the calls from the house, but that’s to be expected, Welliver said.
“If you have more people, you’re gonna have more calls coming in,” Welliver said. “I don’t care if you’re at a restaurant, or at a truck stop, or a bank, or anything.”
Drug use and fighting among residents have been issues, but it was really just a few individuals causing problems, according to board member Dan Brewer. There were a few fights in December, but the last one was in February, Brewer said. The house has a strict no drugs policy, but some people would drink and do drugs off the Harvest House property and come back stoned or drunk.
“Are we having more issues than we’ve had in the past? The answer is yes. Is it out of control, like crazy? No, it’s just normal ebb and flow of things,” Welliver said.
The Harvest House’s goal is to help people become independent again, and finding work is the crux of that. Brewer can list off examples of people who came into the house and found a solid job in Boonville.
“A lot of people [who] have stayed out there are now gainfully employed in Boonville,” Welliver said. “So, it’s got good and bad, I guess, just like anything else.”
Helping those with drug addictions can be especially challenging, Brewer said. Some of them do want help, but the Harvest House, staffed entirely by the four board members, doesn’t have adequate resources. Some of them don’t want help at all, and are just looking for a “crash pad,” Brewer said. Those are the people causing problems, he said. The house now has breathalyzers and drug test kits. There’s typically a three strikes policy, but if someone causes a serious problem, they’re out, Brewer said.
Boonville has a lot to offer in jobs and community support, Brewer said. But one thing it lacks is free counseling services. It’s even harder when the residents are only going to be staying a short time. There are free counseling services in Columbia, but it can take weeks to arrange an appointment, Brewer said. It would be great to at least have some volunteers come and listen to the residents of the Harvest House, he said.
Brewer is stretched thin trying to help the 45 people staying in the house. He drives about 150 miles a day, shuttling residents to interviews, appointments and work, he said. More residents also means higher utility bills and more mouths to feed. A lot of time and resources are dedicated to finding food since the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri stopped distributing food to the Harvest House when the new management took over in December.
Brewer said the Food Bank originally was only going to stop providing the house with food for a few months, then it extended a few more months.
The Food Bank hopes to start working with Harvest House before the summer starts, said Director of Programs Eric Maly.
Feeding America, the parent organization of the mid-Missouri food bank, has a set of requirements that organizations must meet before making a partnership. The main hurdle for the Harvest House has been getting a formal board of directors in place, Maly said.
In the meantime, community churches, including S.S. Peter and Paul, have stepped up to donate food, but the house is still having to buy a lot of it. C&R Market has been really helpful, letting Brewer know about special deals, he said.
It’s important to remember the new management was thrust into the position, and are still trying to work out all their rules and get everything squared away, Welliver said. They’re working at it and getting better every day, he said.