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Seasonal homeless shelter closing soon as City of Columbia continues to remove homeless camps


The City of Columbia's pending removal of a second homeless camp comes as the city's only "no barrier" shelter is set to close.

The seasonal homeless shelter Room At the Inn is scheduled to close its doors in about two weeks on April 1.

Room at the Inn is a shelter that operates in Columbia during the winter months. It is open until April at the former VFW Hall at 1509 Ashley Street.

Meanwhile, the city finished its part of cleaning out a homeless camp on private property near the Columbia Mall on Thursday after receiving complaints from residents in the area. Cleanup of another large camp near the Interstate 70 and Highway 63 connector is expected to happen after the Department of Natural Resources sent a warning to the city about garbage in Hinkson Creek earlier this week.

Columbia Salvation Army spokesman Sean Spence said there are not enough beds in the area to help everyone in need.

"As the weather gets better, the resources for our unsheltered neighbors get a lot fewer," Spence said. "There really are just not enough resources here. We need to have new shelters, we need to have more beds."

The Salvation Army Harbor House is open 24/7 everyday of the year, and is the only shelter in Columbia that serves a nonspecific population. They provide services for anyone and include family units as well.

"At any given time that facility is full," Spence said. "I believe today, it's completely full. There are only so many beds and there are hundreds more homeless folks who need help than we're able to serve at any given time." 

Spence said once people leave these camps, even he doesn't know where they will go. He claimed there is going to be tough times ahead with the growing lack of resources.

"We're going to see lots of them on the streets of Columbia," Spence said. "We're gonna see some of them on other public lands, some of them on private lands."

According to Spence, the issue of homelessness won't be fixed by treating the symptoms of it like hunger or housing, but going after the root of the issue, things like addiction and mental-health issues.

City of Columbia spokeswoman Sydney Olsen said earlier this week the city is providing alternative living options for those who live at the camps.

Olsen said the city is not in a position to force people into shelters, but it does want to get in touch with those who are homeless and to let them know about services.

The CoMo Mobile Aid Collective, which advocates for services for homeless people, said the city should consider humanitarian upgrades at the camps in a statement sent earlier this week.

"This could include basic trash dumpsters, hygiene stations, and other primitive camping services at the encampments until more opportunities are available for these individuals,” the statement says.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

Ethan Heinz


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