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Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church to provide warming center for Columbia’s homeless

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

A central Columbia church will be the site of an overnight shelter for homeless people this winter.

On Monday the Columbia City Council passed an amendment to its service contract with Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church to add overnight warming center services to its Turning Point homeless drop-in day center operation.

Public Health and Human Services Assistant Director Rebecca Roesslet said this is an amendment to an existing contract the city had with the church and will provide an alternative to the shelter at Wabash Bus Station which was also used to house homeless during colder weather. That shelter was run by city staff and volunteers.

Roesslet said the proposal is for the Wilkes Boulevard location to operate when the forecast is anticipated to be 25 degrees or lower. Depending on the temperature, the shelter should begin operating on Nov. 27 and would end services in April.

The city said the budget allows for up to 55 nights of overnight shelter to be provided. The contract period would run from November 2022-December 2023, Roesslet said.

On Monday, some community members expressed the need for the warming shelter to open this week as temperatures are expected to drop to 25 degrees -- a mark that was officially reached Tuesday morning at the Columbia Regional Airport. The City Council did not comment back when this statement was brought up.

Councilman Nick Foster commended the staff for the work they've completed so far.

"This will be another important good step. Thanks also to Turning Point for being willing to step up on this. This is not a small ask and it's appreciated," Foster said Monday night.

On Nov. 27, the city also plans to House Room at the Inn at a temporary overnight homeless shelter on Ashley Street.

The building will cost the city $860,000; but the cost for improvements to the building is separate from this price averaging about $490,000 in repairs. 

City of Columbia spokeswoman Sydney Olsen said while the city makes these improvements, the temporary shelter will still be open to the community. 

"We don't anticipate the improvements to delay being able to utilize the building for Room at the Inn this winter," Olsen said.

Anyone in the community looking for 24-hour shelter Tuesday night can stay at the Salvation Army Harbor House located at 602 North Ann Street in Columbia. 

Article Topic Follows: Columbia City Government

Kennedy Miller

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