JOPLIN, MO.--- David Terry has spent many nights not knowing where his next meal would come from.
"I didn't know where I was going to go, whether I was going to go under a bridge or not," states David Terry, Currently Homeless.
He's not alone. According to a study released through the Federal Housing and Urban Development Agency, Terry is one of more than 10,000 homeless Missouri residents.
"Statistically, it's been higher in this area of Missouri than in other parts. I think, when you find some of your more populous areas, you find increased pockets of homelessness," states James Whitford, Executive Director, Watered Gardens.
The 14% statewide increase equates to approximately 1,200 people just like Terry who became newly homeless in 2012.
"People don't realize how quickly it could happen to them, it's just a heartbeat away. I was working just 5 months ago, I had my own apartment and a job, and now here I am," states Terry.
Area homeless shelter directors are working to reverse this trend on the local level.
"When we talk about really helping the poor, we have to have an expectation of exchange. Exchange meaning that, I'm not just here to give something to you, but you have something in you that is meant to be helping us in our community," states Whitford.
Watered Gardens shelter primarily operates on a merit based system to help restore a sense of self worth and work ethic in people who may have temporarily lost their way.
"As long as we look at the homeless and the poor as some group of people we just need to give something to, we will never help them," states Whitford.
Shelter leaders say spending time with homeless people is another way to help reverse the emotional and psychological factors that sometimes perpetuate homelessness.