Homeless in Hannibal: Reaching out to help

Hannibal residents and organizations are stepping in to help with the increasing numbers of people living homeless.

Although homeless numbers in Hannibal are not as apparent as in major metropolitan areas, some Hannibal departments like the police are reporting a 150-percent increase in the numbers they've dealt with in the past year.

Some organizations in town are reaching out to help those who can't help themselves.

Howard Miller spends most of his time on the streets of Hannibal, but he can count on hot meal every week night at the

Loaves and Fishes program


"Chances are I'd probably go to bed without eating," he said.

"I'm on disability and I use it to pay all my other bills so I don't have money for food," Rodney Earl Foust said.

Homeless, low-income individuals and people just wanting fellowship flock to this free meal. The volunteers say they're the ones leaving this place fulfilled.

"It's our duty to share and its one way we can help our community," Loaves and Fishes volunteer Connie Roberts with the First Christian Church said.

Pam Rivera has started up her own soup kitchen nearby in the former Abbey Rose restaurant on Thursday afternoons.

While she used to serve paying customers here, she's now serving free meals to those in need. She says the growing homeless numbers prompted her to reach out. Now this meal is open to anyone who needs it with a donation jar at the door. Rivera says the meal here starts earlier because hunger knows no time.

"I'm starting to get families and that's what I like so the families can sit together and enjoy it together," Rivera said.

Warren Mills eats at the Abbey Rose on Thursdays.

"This is the only place you can get a good meal and I appreciate what they're doing for us here," he said.

Workers at Hannibal's Hope House have seen the largest growth in the city's growing homeless population. Dorothy Whitley has been the manager here at the Hope House for several years.

"I think that it is worse than it was and that's because there are fewer options for the homeless. Fewer places for them to turn to," Whitley said.

Whitley says she's seen a big change in the people seeking help. There have been as many as 14 people crowding into the shelter here at any given time throughout the past year. People aren't just passing through, Whitley said.

"They're not motivated. Probably because they've given up," she said.

She's also seeing some mothers with children with no where else to turn.

"Relatives are not taking them in as much as they used to and many times its because they can't afford to," she said. "I've seen a lot of that in the last year."

People must check in a the police department before seeking shelter at the Hope House. People have a place to sleep, bathe and wash their clothes before vacating the building at nine in the morning. It's a limited service, but a lifesaver for people seeking shelter from the cold winter.

"When they have no other choices and they are desperate, they turn to the Hope House" Whitley said.

As the homeless population grows, there is an effort underway in Hannibal to create a new 24 hour homeless shelter. A group called God's Harvester's wants to open what they call a "Harvest Center."

The hope is to house a shelter, food kitchen, church and food bank all under one roof.

Rev. Ronn Pashia, a member of God's Harvesters, said the group also wants to offer other resources at the facility, including counseling, training and a job center in order to help those who want to help themselves.

"Our community - we want a homeless center," he said. "There are a couple of buildings in this town that would accommodate this ministry. We need a homeless shelter where people can get out of the heat and the cold on a short term basis."

Pashia says an infrastructure of professional volunteers is already in place to make this facility a reality.

He says the group is just searching for a building to house it in.