Homeless shelters full, need volunteers

9 months 5 days 9 hours ago Tuesday, January 16 2018 Jan 16, 2018 Tuesday, January 16, 2018 5:22:00 PM CST January 16, 2018 in News
By: Zara McDowell, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA - Some homeless shelters in Columbia are at capacity and have waiting lists as temperatures plunge to near zero degrees.

"Anytime the temperature gets this low we anticipate and try to plan for a full house," said Debby Graham, the Outreach Ministry Coordinator at Broadway Christian Church.

The Room at the Inn can hold 50 guests each night. According to the Columbia-Boone County Basic Needs Coalition, there were over 250 homeless people in 2017. 

"We are often at capacity in January and February," Director Jim Jantz said. "We definitely need volunteers, we have 17 volunteer slots everyday people can sign up for."

The shelter moves from various Columbia churches in the winter to bring the homeless inside.

"Our mission statement says we provide a warm safe place to sleep, so that's our focus," Jantz said.

"Last winter in February there were nights we turned seven or eight people away," he said.

Jantz said when the shelter does turn away people it gives them a sleeping bag. He said the shelter needs sleeping bags, large coats and cash donations.

Graham said the shelter also needs more people to help.

"Last year we had 500 volunteers total, this year I expect it to be that many, it takes that many to run the shelter." Graham said. "I would always love to have more volunteers."

Volunteers make more than 50 sandwiches each night. A local organization sponsored the shelter's meal Tuesday night. Volunteers were able to provide guests with a warm chicken meal from HyVee.

The shelter usually has sandwiches, fruit, Ramen noodles, coffee and snack foods. 

It offers a shuttle that runs from Loaves and Fishes, a soup kitchen, three times a day.

When the Broadway Christian Church houses the shelter, The Room at the Inn provides a bus ticket for each guest.

Our House, a shelter in Fulton, currently has three to four openings for single women, but is otherwise full. Our House provides a transitional shelter for families and an emergency overnight shelter which houses 17 people. Both are full.

Guests previously at the shelter are able to make a reservation, guaranteeing a spot at the shelter if they are not more than 15 minutes late. If reservations are full, guests are put on a waiting list.

To donate or volunteer, visit The Room at the Inn's site here.

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