Advocate finds a new way to help the homeless in mid-Missouri

Sunday, January 20, 2008 | 8:11 p.m. CST; updated 7:20 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008
Montana Gross, left, and her daughter Sky pose on Friday afternoon at their house in Hallsville near a donation box that they built for the project Let No Citizen Be Left Behind.

Three weeks ago, Montana Gross had an idea.

The 41-year-old Hallsville resident wanted to find a way to help the homeless in central Missouri that would go beyond providing food and temporary shelter: She wanted to teach them how to help themselves. And so her program, Let No Citizen Be Left Behind, was born.

Less than a month later, she and her 9-year-old daughter Sky had placed drop boxes for donations of clothing and supplies in eight businesses; they had collected dozens of coats, boots, gloves and other cold weather necessities to give to the people that Gross felt most needed the items.

One of the drop boxes is located at Bass Pro Shops in Columbia. Store manager Chip Moynihan said the store felt the program was a worthy cause.

“We wanted to help the people out there who have nothing, and there are plenty of them out there for sure,” Moynihan said.

Providing cold-weather gear is not where Gross’ program stops, however. She said she plans to implement programs to help the homeless on spiritual and professional levels as well.

Gross’ “Next Step” plan works on a long-term basis with those who are homeless to build their confidence and prepare them in finding and maintaining employment. She said she hopes to get contractors to agree to hire the homeless after they sign a written agreement stating the conditions required to keep the job, such as levels of work performance and behavior.

Additionally, she wants to get health and dental professionals involved to provide free services to the homeless.

Gross said her program is unique because of the level of interaction she has with those she helps.

“I truly love them,” Gross said. “I want to make them feel like a citizen again instead of someone that has been thrown away.”

One of Gross’ primary goals now is getting the word out about her program so that others can get involved. She was a guest on KOMU/Channel 8’s “Pepper and Friends” program on Jan. 4 and will visit again on Jan. 30.

She is looking for anyone willing to donate time or items. For more information or to get involved, call Gross at 696-2329.

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