A lady and her dog living in a utility closet in a downtown building illustrates the need of some in the area.

A lady and her dog living in a utility closet in a downtown building illustrates the need of some in the area.

A building owner found a woman in his building Thursday morning when she stepped outside. She said she had needed a place to stay for the night and knew there was an empty space in the back of the building.

“I think the biggest thing is that there is a need in El Dorado and Butler County,” said Melody Gault, Butler Homeless Initiative president. “Obviously with this picture (at right) you can see the evidence that people are trying to get in out of the cold.”

BHI helps as many as they can, but they are limited in what they can do.

Gault said they received an emergency solutions grant in September which provided some money for rapid rehousing. At that time they also brought on board Debra Egan, case manager.

Egan said since November they have helped 14 adults and 23 children.

“There is a lot more need than what actually meets that HUD definition of homeless,” Egan said. “There are some people who need emergency care.”

She said if someone calls at 10 p.m. because they have no where to go, there isn’t any way to help them because they don’t have any place to put them. They are able to help with rent, security deposits and utility bills though.

Egan shared the story of a mother and her children who had gotten evicted from their home. She said the children were showering at the Y and they were going to the bathroom at QuikTrip because they were living out of a camper. They were able to get this family into an apartment.

“There’s a huge need and not a lot of people know about our program, and not a lot of people acknowledge there’s a need,” Egan said.

Gault said people don’t think there is a problem because the homeless are not hanging out on the street like one may see in Wichita.

“This is single mothers with children who may be going from friend’s house to friend’s house and eventually run out of a place to go and eventually they may be living out of their car,” she said. “It is not as evident as if driving in Wichita.”

She said if a person was not looking there were things they would not see, but once a person starts looking around there is evidence of homelessness.

Another way they are working to help the homeless is through the establishment of a transitional housing facility.

They are about $10,000 away from meeting the goal to be able to purchase a building for this use.

“The idea is that we would still have emergency shelter money so the people who came and stayed, we would be able to have the emergency shelter, then move them into housing,” Gault said. “That is one of the things we have always talked about is transitional housing.”

She said they want to take a holistic approach to meeting the needs of individuals including finding a job or other resources through the DCS or Counseling Center.

They are continuing to raise money toward their goal, but Gault said a lot of grants they have looked at are not for the purchase of a building, but rather for programs or operations.

Anyone who would like to donate can do so through their Web site at www.butlerhomelessinitiative.org. They also meet at 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at First Presbyterian Church for anyone who would like to get involved.

Julie Clements can be reached at jclements@butlercountytimesgazette.com.