Shelters in Columbia preparing for cold weather

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COLUMBIA - Rainbow House Emergency Shelter and The Salvation Army Harbor House are prepared for the early winter weather, but have been at capacity for over a month. 

Rainbow House Shelter Director, Tracy Johnson, said even with preparation homelessness is a huge problem in Columbia. 

"We have families sleeping in their cars when it gets too cold and they can't afford to run their car all night," Johnson said. "That's when our services come in." 

She said even at capacity she has never turned a family away if they have no other option. 

"We would provide other resources, we may not have bed space for them but private donors sometimes donate hotel nights," she said. "We can send them out of the county to a shelter that has space and provide transportation for the family."

With the early winter last year, Harbor House Shelter Director Jordanna Boyd-Proctor, said they asked for extra donations this year in order to compensate for being at capacity. 

When the shelter is full, Harbor House offers a Cold Cot program if the temperature outside is below 35 degrees.

"We can cot 15 people at a time, we give them dinner, allow them to stay over night and give them breakfast before they leave in the morning," Boyd-Proctor said. 

Leon Lambth is a member of the Cold Cot program. He has been using the shelter for over two years while on the housing waiting list. 

"It's reassuring that there are people out there trying to help, than can help and have the funds to do it," Lambth said. "You have to be willing to stick your hand out and ask for help." 

He said he lives out in the woods all year round, but winter is the hardest time of the year. The Cold Cot program opened up monday night and will continue for the rest of the week. 

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