St. Francis House Offers Hospitality to Homeless

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COLUMBIA - One of the founders of a Columbia shelter said many people think less often about the homeless during summer.

"I think people remember poor people a lot more when it's cold, because they see them out on the streets," said Steve Jacobs, of St. Francis House.

Catholic volunteers started St. Francis House about 30 years ago. Jacobs was a founding member, the last who was still involved.

"The problem with showing up every day is that if you keep doing it, pretty soon you'll have seniority thrust upon you whether you want it or not," Jacobs said while laughing.

He said he has had opportunities to pursue other things, but did not because he really enjoyed what he did.

Jacobs and other volunteers actually live in the home, doing chores and keeping everything in order, like in any other house. They spend mornings and evenings providing breakfast and dinner to poor and homeless people.

The home has space for 14 guests to stay overnight. The house's longest guest has been staying there for 29 years.

When it is not mealtime, guests often hang around the house because job opportunities are slim.

Jacobs said homelessness is often not the person's own fault.

"About half of them have mental health issues, and so they're not going to get hired. Some of them are obviously mentally ill," Jacobs said.

He said helping out at the house makes him a more well-rounded person.

Rachael Krall has been volunteering at the St. Francis House for 12 years. She said she and her husband chose to be live-in volunteers at another shelter. She said she wanted to show her son, Andrew, helping the homeless is not so much charity, but a responsibility to reach out to those in need.

Krall said Andrew's friends initially questioned why he lived in a homeless shelter, but they now understand, after Krall happily answered their questions.

"Especially when they see that it's a home, and me and my husband are together, and it's not just chaos. There's more structure than some of his friends' homes," Krall said.

St. Francis House is not government-funded, so all services are dependent on private donations. Krall said those are in shorter supply during the summer, and she has noticed it is a little harder to put meals together without generous food donations.

"Especially around holidays, we get a lot of donations. And then I think during the summer we sometimes get kind of forgotten about because people don't get that image in their head of 'oh, my gosh, there's someone out there and it's negative 12 degrees,'" Krall said.

The house tries to keep lots of canned foods around during the summer when food donations are low, Krall said.

Volunteers said the best way to help is dropping in and donating both perishable and non-perishable food or clothing items. The house is located at 901 Rangeline Street.

Meal hours are 7 AM to 8:30 AM for breakfast, and 7 PM to 9:30 PM for dinner. Saturday breakfast is 7 AM to 9:30 AM. Sunday breakfast is 11 AM to 2 PM.

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