Columbia, MO. (KMIZ)
Plans are in the works for a new living facility to help the homeless population in Columbia.
The Voluntary Action Center (VAC) announced Tuesday that with the help of several other organizations it is moving forward with creating the campus. The facility will provide emergency shelter, transitional housing, affordable housing, meals, and dental and clinical wraparound services.
Ed Stansberry, the executive director of VAC, said the vision of the facility is to provide a full-scale level of services that can lift people out of homelessness and put them back into mainstream society.
Stansberry said the pandemic caused an increase in the need for VAC's housing assistance and rent and mortgage assistance.
"Our housing and mortgage assistance quadrupled from 2019 to 2020 as a result of the pandemic so that brought a great deal of focus to our organization and that the housing side of things was a critical need in the community, and that needed to be addressed," Stansberry said.
Stansberry said the facility will be a multi-million dollar project and the funds for the project will come from President Biden's next stimulus package and from fundraising efforts.
"There will be a significant fundraising effort that will involve our corporate partners here in town and obviously private donors. Then, of course, the city and the county being a part of this we're hopeful that there will be significant funding that can come from those entities as well," Stansberry said.
Faith Voices Housing Justice team, Room at the Inn, Turning Point and Loaves & Fishes are helping with the project.
Debby Graham the president of the Columbia Interfaith Resource Center said during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Room at the Inn provided almost 4,000 cot beds over a 12-week session in Columbia.
Graham said she believes the homeless issue has only continued to grow over the past few months and will continue to get worse heading into the summer.
Graham said having a centralized location like the proposed facility will make it easier for homeless people to find shelter.
"Having a centralized location for those three programs would just be easier for the homeless population to find us. For one thing, it would facilitate communication between the three outreach ministries and help us all provide better and stronger services," Graham said.
Graham said this cooperative effort will not only help the homeless population with their immediate needs but it would also make it possible for the homeless to be put into permanent housing.
"You know getting them into a permanent home of some kind whether it be in public housing through Section A, getting them the services that they need in order to be able to sustain that house which may be as simple as getting them a copy of their birth certificate or getting them some form of ID," Graham said.
The agencies involved in the project will be meeting Wednesday to discuss the likelihood of Columbia and Boone County receiving federal funding for the project.
The project will happen in multiple phases. VAC and the Opportunity Campus Advisory Board is looking forward to establishing the viability of this vision.