It’s an ongoing struggle to keep up with the everyday maintenance. Windows need to be replaced or at least repaired, the air-conditioning on the men’s side is hit and miss, the plumbing needs work and the list continues to grow. Especially in the winter, some are turned away because there is no room.

It’s an ongoing struggle to keep up with the everyday maintenance. Windows need to be replaced or at least repaired, the air-conditioning on the men’s side is hit and miss, the plumbing needs work and the list continues to grow. Especially in the winter, some are turned away because there is no room.

With every step forward, it sometimes feels like they take two backwards. While making sure there is a shelter for those men, women and children who have no place to call home seems to be a daunting undertaking, for those who are working tirelessly to keep the doors open, it is a labor of not only kindness but of perseverance.

Lake Area Helping Hands Homeless Shelter in Camdenton has been faced with challenges over the last few years, finding the support it needs to maintain and expand the shelter that serves the entire lake. A dedicated group of board members and volunteers have recently found some much needed help from an unlikely source, a group of moms from the Lake of the Ozarks Mom’s Group.

It started with a handful of moms from the group decided to volunteer to help by serving dinner to the residents. As they learned more about the shelter and got to know Patty Wieter, the shelter manager,

they realized the needs were great.

“We left with a purpose in our hearts to do whatever we could to help.” Kari Ransdell said. The biggest challenges for the shelter are space and funding. They are operating in a much better place month to month, but any big hit would put them right back in the red.  Their hope is to raise awareness within the community and possibly have work days to make some necessary repairs, she said.

The moms, just like the shelter board and volunteers, are facing the same dilemma… how to raise the funds needed to help. They are going out in the community and taking on the task of raising money while also promoting the work the shelter does for those who need it.

“They have continually been at capacity, and that only worsens in the winter months...turning away multiple people each day. I would personally love to see the shelter expand to be able to house more families,” Randall said. “But I know that would require quite a bit.”

Like many charitable organizations, Wieter says the biggest problem facing the shelter is monetary donations. The shelter’s main source of income comes from donations and small grants and at times, spreading the need by word of mouth ends up being most effective.

Daily Operations Director Gary Lee says the recent shift in government funding to affordable housing and decrease in emergency housing has been a strike to Helping Hand’s income. This, on top of the consistent demand that doesn’t lower with time. 

A goal of Helping Hands is not only to provide a place of shelter to the 30-or so who are housed there at any given time but also to help those in need to get on the right track. The shelter has a strict no alcohol or drugs policy with an instant dismissal upon violation. Smetana says that they also help new members to get into the workforce and further help by monitoring income and where the income will be utilized.“Homelessness is an epidemic, and we reflect a sign of the times,” Lee said.

Ransdell said the moms have tried to raise awareness of the shelter in both the Lake Ozark St. Patty’s Day parade and the Dogwood Festival in Camdenton. They hosted a Mother-daughter tea party over Mother’s Day weekend, helped out with a very successful yard sale organized by the First Baptist Church in Camdenton last month, and now hope to reach as many people as possible with an event this weekend in Camdenton. All with just a handful of people.

For Ransdell it is a very personal experience. For her it isn’t just listening to the stories and paying it forward, it’s about experiencing hardships that create the “people we become.”

As a child, Ransdell experienced the uncertainty of having nowhere to go.

“Being homeless as a child, and living in a shelter with my mom and brother, makes this venture very near to my heart,” she said. “As a 10-year-old in that situation, I remember it vividly...and somewhat fondly. I remember rhubarb pie, racing to sign the alphabet (ASL) with a fellow resident, and a New Kids on the Block poster. I also have an intense dislike for army green wool blankets. I feel like there is so much we, as a community can do, and it has to start somewhere.”