Columbia looks to battle homelessness in the community

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COLUMBIA - Columbia and Boone County came together Thursday to talk about the homelessness issue in the community.

This is the first year of the Columbia Boone County Homelessness Summit and its goal is to find strategies to help combat homelessness.

There are around 350 homeless adults in Columbia and over 200 children in the Columbia Public School system without a home.

Executive Director of the Heart of Missouri United Way Andrew Grabau said there are three main goals in mind with this event.

"The first one is to address and identify the needs for the homeless in our community. The second one is to identify innovative strategies and the third on is to put those into action," Grabau said.

The summit brings in speakers from across the country who deal with homeless issues and implement programs to help fight the issues in other communities.

"The innovative solutions that  some of the other communities have implemented are based on housing first programs where it looks at addressing the actual need of homelessness. Once we can address that basic need then we can start to look at other wrap around services and needs and help that population accordingly," he said.

Event moderator Karla Despain works to help fight homelessness in Columbia on a daily basis. She is a board member with the Columbia Alliance to Combat Homelessness and said this summit comes at the perfect time.

"Through working with [C.A.T.C.H], I've seen that there are great needs here in Columbia," she said. "We know that CPS has around 200 students that are registered as homeless and there are many more than that and with the camps around town...we know there is an issue in Columbia."

Despain said she feels confident this summit will lead to a good outcome.

"I think we'll be able to come together and learn some innovative ideas that have been going on in places that have been successful and then adapt it to our community and what we would like to see happen and how we might be able to alleviate the problem," Despain said.

The summit takes place through Friday. 160 people are expected to attend the event.