Thursday, July 26, 2012
Her name might not be as recognizable as that of some other local philanthropists, but to those who are familiar with “Sunshine” or “Miss Connie,” — particularly the Callaway County homeless population — she is a helping hand when it is most needed.
Connie Cashion, of Holts Summit, is one of the few people members of the county’s homeless population will willingly interact with after years of bringing them food and other supplies. That may be why she was so much more successful than SERVE, Inc. employees and volunteers when she went out in the early morning hours on Wednesday to conduct the annual summer homeless count, making contact with 109 individuals — which Cashion was quick to note does not account for the entire population — staying in one of nine different camps. Last year’s summer count only resulted in contact with 14 people.
In a meeting with Julie Roark and Katie Davis with SERVE’s Callaway Action Network Wednesday morning, Cashion advised them that the reason past homeless counts have been so unsuccessful is due to area homeless not wanting to be catalogued — “We’re not animals,” one man had advised her a few hours before — or to be interfered with by the outside world.
“They appreciate the help, but they want to pick who helps. They don’t trust anyone,” Cashion said. “Would you want anybody you don’t know walking up to your bedroom to ask if you’re okay?
“They said, ‘We’re not starving to death.’ If they need help, they’ll come out.”
Cashion said almost all of the homeless individuals she meets with on a regular basis as part of her personal outreach program are men between the ages of 34 and 68. A large chunk of them are content to be living as they are.
“It’s mainly men — it’s easier for them out there. It’s unsafe for women; the women will go to the cities and go to shelters,” Cashion said. “Half of them have no choice, and the other half has made their choice — they’re sick of the system, of the government and red tape, they’re sick of filling out a piece of paper for a piece of bread.”
She said that is one reason she has been so successful with what she does. When Cashion brings food, hygiene products, clothes or any of the other myriad supplies she procures, she said it is a simple interaction in which she treats them like anyone else and not as if they are “the needy.”