Observed holiday leaves Columbia’s homeless with few options
COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Bus routes and city-operated buildings closed their doors Monday in observance of Christmas. However, the closures left Columbia's homeless with few options when a local shelter closed for the day.
Room at the Inn is a local shelter in Columbia that extended its hours over the holiday weekend. RATI chose to keep its doors open as long as it could today as well, as the temperature was still low.
"We knew from looking at the calendar that the legal holiday was going to fall on that Monday was going to be an issue," RATI Board President Debby Graham said.
"We stayed open a little later today than we would normally have, to try to accommodate as much as we could for the holiday schedule," Graham said. "But we just could not stay open any longer than we already had."
When the Room at the Inn closed its doors today to allow its volunteers to clean and prepare for the evening, RATI guests were left with few options.
Many of its guests would typically opt to take one of GoCOMO's bus routes to one of Columbia's warming centers. Since buses didn't run on Monday, many of its guests had to walk.
Columbia Ward 1 Councilwoman Pat Fowler that's a hard walk to make when you have to carry your whole life with you.
"When you're not only walking, wearing as many warm clothes as you can, but also carrying what personal possessions you have," Fowler said.
The only option Columbia's homeless had to escape the weather today was either the Salvation Army's Harbor House or Turning Point. Both are between a mile and a mile-and-a-half away.
The Salvation Army's Harbor House only offered lunch and due to COVID-19 restrictions, they could only stay for an hour. Turning Point didn't open until 4:30 p.m.
Even if they made it to one of these locations, Fowler said they would still have to make the journey back to Loaves and Fishes to catch a ride on RATI's shuttle service that started at 5:30 p.m.
Stephanie Yoakum -- of CoMo Mobile Aid Collective -- said there is more that needs to be done to serve those in need.
"I would strongly encourage the city to take a more proactive plan in filling these gaps," Yoakum said. "If they are unable to do that I would strongly encourage private entities and churches, especially churches Downtown to open their space to individuals to stay warm and safe from the elements."
Next Monday, Jan. 2 will be observed for New Year's Day.