Lake Area Helping Hands Inc.
68 Holden Drive
P.O. Box 1141
Camdenton, MO 65020
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Living at the Lake of the Ozarks is incredible, we have the finest shops, restaurants and golf courses and one of the most scenic lakes in the country for watersport enjoyment. Tourist travel from across the nation to enjoy our abundant vacation destination.
Our blessed and busy lives sometimes cause us to miss the invisible people around us. Men, women and children who have suffered unexpected tragedies, who have fallen between the cracks and who are homeless. These are our next-door neighbors. Families who do not have a kitchen table to eat at or a bath tub to wash the days dirt-off. When you don’t have a place to lay your head at night, you don’t have a safe place, security, or a foundation. For parents, it is like stepping out of an airplane without a parachute.
Some have been found sleeping in abandoned cars, others in makeshift shacks, with no protection of a locked door and no light to light the darkness. To a child, this can be horrifying. Homelessness can kill too. Whether it is freezing in the dead of winter, suffocating in the heat of summer or suffering violence. It all comes down to the desperate battle of the survival of the fittest or a helping hand.
The Helping Hands Homeless Shelter in Camdenton has been reaching out to these invisible ones since 1984.
Are they our responsibility? Many times it seems we have become cold to their plight. It is like they do not exist, they are invisible. Part of the reason may be because when we think of a homeless person, we picture a 54-year-old-man with long hair and a scraggily beard that smells of alcohol and urine holding a sign asking for a hand-out. So we dismiss them like an afterthought. But the reasons why people are homeless are as varied and unintentional as the invisible characters themselves.
Annie’s mom was living the lake dream, a loving family a good job, working as a nurse at local Hospital. Then one day her daddy told her mommy that he found someone new that he liked better. He said goodbye and left. Her mother was left to face all the responsibilities and raising children by herself. All at once, Annie’s world came crashing in around her. Her parents divorced, she lost her daddy to another family. Her mother spiraled into a deep debilitating depression. She lost her job and Annie and her siblings became homeless and were taken away. Finally, unable to cope with it all, her mother suffered a nervous breakdown.
When mom arrived at the Helping Hands Homeless Shelter in Camdenton she was befuddled, with no money or a job. She had a car but no license plates or insurance.
“Sometimes when folks come to the shelter they have been through the ringer and at no fault of their own,” Shelter Director Ron Estep said. “They could be your brother, your sister or one of your
children. They haven’t slept for weeks, they are exhausted and emotionally drained. We just let them sleep, sometimes for two or three days.”
Once they are stabilized, the staff will do an assessment interview and give resources for their particular needs. “We consider them to be guests in their own home. There’s a lot of different moods, different characters, but they all want to be treated with respect.”
Ron is an encourager, he told Annie’s mom, “Look you are not done, your life is not finished, this is not the end. God won't give up on you and neither will we. It is time to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get back to life and we are here to help you along the way. Sometimes we encourage by giving a little nudge,” he said.
She started attending church and counseling. A donor stepped up and helped her get her car legal and using her college RN diploma she got a job at a local nursing home. She saved up for a place and she has been reunited with her children. “I got a letter from her thanking me for being the dad she never had,” Ron remembered with a tear in his eye… one of the successful ones. Ron often cries when he talks about his clients.
Some nights, 30 or more homeless Lake of the Ozarks citizens will go to sleep at the Helping Hands Homeless Shelter. Many would say, “Oh that is not so many.” But each one of them have a sad story, a struggle and a desperate need.
“I just want to remind people that there’s a daily emergency at the Lake of the Ozarks called homelessness and we’re responding to that emergency with real resources and loving compassion every day,” Ron reiterated.
The mission of the shelter is to provide temporary emergency shelter for men, women, children and families. They endeavor to address the root cause of the problem so they can end the cycle of poverty. “Homelessness is a symptom of a different or greater problem that is usually the root cause of homelessness. If you treat just the symptom and give a person a place to sleep for the night, you haven't solved the real problem,” Ron explained.
Residents are required to do chores, find employment and save money to get their own place. Area church partners will pick up anyone who wants to attend services or drug/alcohol recovery programs.
Clients are expected to set goals and as long as they are making progress they are welcome to stay. It is harder for single moms because a large portion of their income goes towards child care.
School buses pick up students at the shelter.
The range of reasons people are at the shelter is varied if not endless. One elderly couple was found living in their car, a middle-age man fell apart after his wife died, he was injured and was not able to do the job he had done all of his adult life. Tragic stories go on.
We are here to take care of the most basic of needs,” Ron said. “We endeavor to be God’s helping hands.”
What if Ozark neighbors came together on one day to help our homeless? What could we accomplish?
The second annual Give Ozarks Day will give us that chance. For 24 hours, on Tuesday, May 3 neighbors can give to the shelter via secure online giving to agency partners of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. On this day we can help our homeless shelter compete for matches and prizes, and be a part of a one-day surge in generosity across our great state.
The agency that has the most online donors in the 3 a.m. hour will receive a $2,000 prize. The agency with the most donors in the 5 a.m. hour will also receive a $2,000 prize.
To give to the shelter on give Ozark day Tuesday May 3 go to
On the other 364 days of the year you can go to
We owe it to every homeless family, to every woman in fear of going to sleep at night and to giving hope for a better future to a homeless child. No cause should burn as fiercely in our hearts as
helping the Homeless in our community.
On this page, you can find out for yourself about what is going on. Please contact Ron Estep if you would like to organize an event and publicize it on our website.