Wiley House Shelter Looking for Volunteers and Food Donations

Related Story

FULTON - This year's winter weather has left many in Callaway County deprived of basic resources such as food or daytime shelter in public community places. Fulton's Wiley House, the county's only overnight shelter, has been trying to offer a warm place to stay for the homeless in Mid-Missouri, extending its services during the winter storm.

But with more people staying in because of the freezing temperatures, Jim Cruickshank, the president of the board at Our House, which includes Wiley House and another shelter for families, said more volunteers are needed to take care of the house on a 24-hour basis.

"Volunteering time is a great thing. If people could just sit over there and make sure the house is running right. It's not a scary thing, we have wonderful people staying there. They are just down on their luck and need to go to a place, some sort of shelter for the evening," said Cruickshank.

Wiley House usually stays closed between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. but, this week, it stayed open all day and night for those who didn't have a place to go. New residents need to have background checks done in order to register at the Wiley House. Cruickshank said last week almost 15 people stayed at the shelter, which can only accommodate 19 people.

Chuck Rossiter is an overnight monitor at the Wiley House and spends most of his weekends looking after those at the shelter. He manages to get four hours of sleep every weekend, but said he feels rewarded with the work he is doing.

"It's a job that gets you by the heart pretty much. You become counselor with these people. These people don't have nobody else to talk to but the night monitor. If you know that you can help somebody better the situation that they were in, that's a good enough reward. That works for me. " said Rossiter, who was a resident of the house himself two years ago.

Jim Cruickshank said feeding everyone is another challenge for the shelter as it has no kitchen and little room for food storage. Most of the people get food from neighbors, churches, local charities or the Fulton Soup Kitchen, which was closed last week due to bad weather. "Basically peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cup of soup and things like that, which are nourishing, but it's not your primary dinner," said Cruickshank. He is reaching out to the community to bring as little as they can to help out these folks. "Hot meals, anything would be appreciated. Somebody even dropped two dozen of donuts this morning, which is great," said Cruickshank.

Stephen Church has been at the shelter for a couple of months, where he arrived after sleeping in a tent for four years while hitchhiking around the country. He said he feels safe in this shelter and is very thankful to the overnight monitors. "They take pretty good care of you here. First when I broke my hand a couple of weeks ago, they got me to the hospital right away and patched me up," said Church. 

When you walk into Wiley House, it feels like you're visiting a big family with a lot of stories. Many of the residents have managed to develop friendships and maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the house. "We try to make this shelter become home. These people have no place else to go, so we try to make it home," said Chuck Rossiter.

Emma Thompson, who is another resident of the house, said she is lucky to have found this place, after spending one week in the woods before a woman drove her to the shelter. "Nobody expects to be homeless. One day you got a job, you got kids, you're married and life is great. You don't think anything can ever go wrong and then it's all taken away in a snap of a finger," said Thompson.

Residents said donations such as food over the weekends, warm clothes and blankets would be much appreciated in the house.

For more information on how to become a volunteer or make donations to Wiley House, located at 829 Jefferson St. in Fulton, please contact Brad Sheppard at 573-642-6065, or ourhousecallaway@att.net.