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Boone County Coalition to End Homelessness sees new people using services weekly


Some organizations involved in the Boone County Coalition to End Homelessness say they're seeing new faces every week.

The coalition is made up of over 30 private and public organizations to help prevent and end homelessness in Boone County. The group held a virtual update meeting on Monday morning.

Laura Harris, a Homeless Outreach Specialist with New Horizons, said within the last month or so, they've continued to see new faces every week when they go out in the community for outreach.

"We have resumed doing the night, evening outreach," Harris said. "Even at Room at the Inn, there are new faces. People where we have no idea where they came from [and] why we haven't been seeing them on the streets."

Harris said they are continuing to encourage everyone to use Room at the Inn, especially with the temperatures continuing to drop at night. According to the ABC 17 Stormtrack Weather Team, the expected low for Monday night for Columbia will reach the mid-20s.

Harris gave a few reasons for an increase in the new faces.

"Folks who are newly homeless, may have been homeless less than a month, [or] lost their apartments because they couldn't pay an increase in rent," Harris said. "We're just trying to work with them and get them directed into appropriate service providers that can possibly provide some assistance for them."

But there are some people experiencing homelessness who are not using Room at the Inn or Turning Point. Harris said she estimates up to 30 people who do not want to use a shelter. She said those individuals are a mixture of people who have animals and those who do not.

Turning Point, which serves as an overnight shelter when temperatures drop below 32 degrees, had 30 guests Friday.

"Thirty is a lot at the overnight warming center, that is a ton to manage," said Steve Hollis, human services manager for the City of Columbia. "Ninety is a lot at [Room at the Inn]."

Room at the Inn was reported to have 90 people on Tuesday night.

Hollis said the shelters aren't pushing capacity every night but on some cold nights so far this season, the centers are seeing near capacity numbers.

Tambra Redden, the shelter director for Harbor House with the Salvation Army, said the organization focusing on helping families right now.

Some organizations also say they're seeing more women use their services.

"We are seeing quite an increase at Room at the Inn, much more than what the average was last year, almost double," Alfred Patenaude with 4-A-Change said.

Patenaude said Room at the Inn isn't filling every bed every night but it is filling up more quickly than last year.

"The women feel safer having a separate space," said Amelia Lewis, housing liaison with Burrell Behavioral Health. "With years of working at RATI, [women] appreciate that because that was always a huge barrier for a lot of women who have suffered abuse."

Hollis noted that was the reason the city is trying to find another place to house the Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen.

"We don't mind having Loaves & Fishes [at 702 Wilkes Blvd.] but it would definitely impact our ability to shelter women separately," Hollis said. "We still need to actively try to find another place for Loaves & Fishes so we can do our best to maintain all that shelter space."

On its website, Loaves & Fishes says it serves a dinner for between 60 and 125 people each night. According to Love Columbia, the soup kitchen's stay at the Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church has been extended through March.

Hollis said they're open to moving Loaves & Fishes to the city's new Ashley Street campus for homeless services as a backup. But the organization still wants to find another location.

"They've tried every church in town [to move Loaves & Fishes to] and just have not had any luck," Hollis said. "It wouldn't be a permanent space because it would eventually move to the Opportunity Campus."

Earlier this month, ABC 17 News spoke with Ed Stansberry, the executive director of the Voluntary Action Center, which is backing the Opportunity Campus.

At that time, the organization was expected to break ground by the end of this month. As of Monday, Stansberry told ABC 17 News they are waiting on the full-site permit from the city along with permits from MoDOT. Stansberry said they'll likely break ground in late December or early January.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Meghan Drakas

Meghan joined ABC 17 News in January 2021.
The Penn State grad is from the Philadelphia suburbs where she interned with several local TV stations.


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