Columbia businesses help homeless brace for the cold

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COLUMBIA — Several businesses around Columbia have been recognized by the state of Missouri as designated warming centers. 

Warming centers are places that allow people from the public to come in to a business and use the restroom, get water and get out of the cold. Most of the designated warming centers in Columbia are only open during regular business operating hours but there are a few places, like the St. Francis House, that serve as a shelter and have special hours. 

The St. Francis House has served its community for several years. Long before it was put on the "designated warming center" list, St. Francis House worker Steve Jacobs said there was a need to help the homeless community. 

"Sometimes people go to laundromats or they go to the police station lobby if other places are closed," Jacobs said. 

Jacobs said the winter can be extremely brutal on the homeless population in Columbia and he's seen it first hand.

"We had one guy who was pretty bad," Jacobs explained. "It seemed like every year he was in the hospital for passing out in the cold weather. They had to amputate his toes and parts of his feet."

At the St. Francis House the homeless are fed and given donated items. Some of the donated items include sleeping bags, shoes and clothes. 

Jacobs said he serves the community because of one simple rule, "we need to treat other people the way we want to be treated."

Jacobs said he hopes others try and put themselves in the shoes of those who are less fortunate.

"If we find ourselves homeless, then we would hope that there would be some place we could go to get out of the cold weather," he said.

Other warming centers in Columbia include the Columbia Mall, Boone County Government Center, Armory Sports and Community Center, Columbia Public Library and the Salvation. 

To find more designated warming centers across the state of Missouri, visit the Official Missouri State website