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Shelters brace for the cold temperature amid the COVID pandemic

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Shelters across the area are bracing for the coldest nights of the season, while also balancing COVID-19 safety protocols.

The ABC17 Stormtrack weather team is tracking bitterly cold temperatures coming Wednesday night through Friday.

Operating a shelter during a pandemic comes with its own challenges. Human Services Manager of the Columbia/Boone County Department Health Department Steve Hollis said while this is a challenging year for shelters, it's an essential part of the community.

"I've been around long enough that people have frozen to death on the streets in our community, so the basic reason is just pure harm reduction," Hollis said. "Also with the safety measures we have in place, we can do a pretty good job of mitigating the virus in the shelters."

From the beginning of the pandemic, the health department has been working to keep all of the shelters up and running by following new safety guidelines.

Hollis said the number of people experiencing homelessness in Columbia has hovered around 150 recently, which he said was actually down from last year. He expects the need to increase because of the pandemic though.

"We are seeing people who are new to homelessness, there's no doubt about it. I would anticipate we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg because of this economic fallout," Hollis said.

Major Curtiss Hartley, the regional coordinator for Salvation Army in Jefferson City and Columbia, also said they are seeing a lot more people who are new to homelessness and need reaching out to.

"Many folks who have never found themselves in need before necessarily who are finding themselves very stressed about what they are going to do," Hartley said. "They are inundating us and all of the other social service agencies in town with lots of requests on a daily basis."

He said the Harbor House shelter in Columbia has been at capacity for the past few months.

For this round of cold, Hartley said the shelter has already put out their 13 emergency cots and are ready for anyone in need to come. That number had to be reduced because of COVID-19 precautions.

The Salvation Army is still seeking volunteers to help with their services, but Hartley said numbers have taken a hit because of the pandemic as well.

"Everyone is just a little bit more cautious, so the number of people, the number of hours that people are giving to volunteering is, has really dropped off somewhat," Hartley said. "It's just another one of those adjustments we're making."

The health department released a list of warming centers and shelters ahead of the drop in temperature this holiday season.

Columbia's warming centers include:

  • ARC (Activity and Recreation Center), 1701 W. Ash St.
  • Armory Sports and Community Center, 701 E. Ash St.
  • Boone County Government Center, 801 E. Walnut St.
  • Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, 1005 W. Worley St.

Columbia's official shelters include:

  • Room at the Inn, visit roomattheinncomo.org for dates and locations
  • Salvation Army Harbor House (men, women, and families), 602 N. Ann St.
  • St. Francis House (for men), 901 Range Line St. - no availability at this time
  • Lois Bryant House (women and families), 913 Range Line St. - no availability at this time
  • Rainbow House (for children/youth), 1611 Towne Dr.
  • True North (for domestic violence), please call 573.875.1370
  • Welcome Home (for veterans), 2120 Business Loop 70 E.

Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for a full report.

Boone / Cole / Columbia / Coronavirus / News / Video

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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