Glen Moritz and Tamarr Maclin live in Kirksville and run an organization called “AM Housing,” which is named after Glen's son, Andrew, who died of cancer at 33. They are working toward opening a homeless shelter in town.
They spoke about the things that have motivated them to work in the field of rural homelessness.
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Tamarr Maclin: So, Glen, do you have any personal struggles with this, anything that you felt like has affected you in a way with this project that we are trying to get going?
Glen Moritz: Well, you know, with my son having had cancer and contributing to his financial needs, my resources really tapped out, so when I came back to my hometown here in Kirksville, I was really truly at the end of my resources at that point in time.
And I've had other times, a couple other times, earlier in my life where I was really really struggling. I actually have slept on the streets maybe three nights when I was separated and divorced. So there definitely have been some times in my life that give me empathy for others struggling.
Tamarr: For me, I kind of grew up around homelessness. My dad worked in a homeless shelter, and he worked late, so he would have to take me with him. So I was around, and they [people experiencing homelessness] were kind of like my babysitters.
Not in the sense that he would take me down there and have me be watched by them, but I would go down there. It was a big room. A big, open area. They had pool tables, ping pong tables, board games and everything, and a soup kitchen down there.
So I'd l go down there and help in the soup kitchen. I'd go play board games, or I'd play ping pong. That's kind of where I found my love for ping pong - down there.
And I had lots of conversations with homeless people, and they're a lot of very intriguing and interesting people that I met down there that kind of, you know, some of them wanted to be homeless and some of them didn't. Some of them had issues that caused them to be homeless, like mental health issues or from being kicked out on the street or losing their job or depression and anxiety - those type of things.
But I think that's where I kind of developed that, you know, I wanted to help people, and whatever I can do to try to help them, I've come to find out that that helps me, too.
It helps me be a more well-rounded person and helps me have empathy and sympathy for people and helps me put myself in their shoes.
Growing up, my mama always used to tell me, "you're only one check away from being homeless," so that's kind of how I've been going about this and knowing that what I'm doing is the right thing to do.
I'm helping somebody who cannot help themselves, and they might not be to help themselves - they just don't know how to help themselves.
So, it's just been... it's very rewarding. And I know this project will come to fruition, and we will get a building, and once we once we get a building, we'll be up and running, but, yeah, it's been a very, very, very good experience, but it's also bittersweet because there are so many people that we can't help right now, that we would like to.