Coldest temperatures since 2003 keep homeless shelters busy

Thursday, January 15, 2009 | 6:22 p.m. CST; updated 7:33 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 15, 2009

COLUMBIA — As temperatures fell this week, the number of occupied cots and beds at homeless shelters began to go up.

A low of minus 4 Wednesday night was the coldest Columbia has been since Jan. 23, 2003, when it was minus 5.  

Eight people spent the night Wednesday at the Salvation Army Harbor House, a few more than the house would typically see in winter, director Jim Chapman said. Snow and sleet would have driven even more inside, he said.

Harbor House has 15 cots for cold-weather use. This winter, they were fully used only one day in November. 

The first cold cot this season was used Nov. 7, Chapman said. Since then, the house has counted more than 700 lodgings — the number of times a bed is used. During a normal winter season, the number ranges from 300-500.  

Chapman said he thinks part of the reason is the difficult economy. “The winter weather and economy go hand-in-hand,” he said. 

Instead of 15-20 people eating lunch, it is not uncommon for 40-50 to sit at the table.

Other shelters are seeing similar traffic, but it may only be a fraction of the real need.

“Between the centers we have here, we’re not seeing everybody,” Chapman said. There are still those who prefer to stay outside. 

“Most of those who come into a shelter don’t want to be in a shelter," he said. "They want to be out on their own, in a camp.”

If people are not staying outside, they are probably couch-surfing with friends or putting money together to stay at lower-price motels for a night or two until the weather warms up, he said. 

Some have returned to the Harbor House for several nights this winter. Chapman said at least 10 people have returned for up to 20 nights throughout December and January.

If the house runs out of cots, Chapman said he has extra mattresses in the garage. The house also calls participating agencies to help house the homeless.

“We definitely see an increase during this weather,” said Sarah Froese, homeless programming supervisor for the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital.

Veteran Affairs for Supportive Housing began in June to place veterans in homes with intensive case management. The program placed 21 people before the winter season, Froese said.

“We’re hoping we’re catching as many as we can with the new programs,” she said. 

Clear winter weather may be deceiving and cause people to underestimate the need for protective clothing. Below-zero temperatures combined with wind create harsh conditions.

“Many people are running around without sufficient coats,” Chapman said. “At least two have died due to exposure to cold within the last four years.

“The community is responding in an outstanding manner,” he said.

Donated clothes and blankets have been accumulating over the last couple of days at Harbor House. Chapman said the donations will be distributed immediately.

“It will be a surprise for some who come in. We’re going to go after them and warm them up,” he said.

The weather is expected to improve Friday. Temperatures are predicted to rise into the 40s by Saturday and possibly reach 50 degrees by Wednesday.

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Ray Shapiro January 15, 2009 | 10:19 p.m.

In my old neighborhood in New York, the Armory, Churches and school buildings would be used to provide overnight shelter for those in need. Red Cross and other volunteers would assist as medical and police were at the ready.
While we do not have as dense a population here, I wonder if Columbia is maximizing its resources.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 16, 2009 | 3:11 a.m.

>>> ray shapiro January 15, 2009 | 10:19 p.m.
In my old neighborhood in New York, the Armory, Churches and school buildings would be used to provide overnight shelter for those in need. Red Cross and other volunteers would assist as medical and police were at the ready.
While we do not have as dense a population here, I wonder if Columbia is maximizing its resources. <<<

Probably not. We have an armory right down town that is probably not opened in inclimate weather even though it can be easily set up as a emergency shelter. It seems our City Government would rather sluff the responsibilities off onto the 501c3's when it could open up it's own doors say at the armory downtown as well thus creating another shelter those 501c3's could use instead of over crowding their own.

Or is the armory only set aside for a "select group of people to utilize"?

I do not mean to point out the obvious but many times that is what it takes to get people thinking and to boot them in their posteriors up out of their complacency.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 16, 2009 | 6:32 p.m.

Hmm, Chuck and Ray doing their usual "Woe is complacent Columbia" rant when I see no indication that the volunteer agencies are turning away people or unable to meet the demand for those who want shelter.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 16, 2009 | 7:12 p.m.

John Schultz, Chairman of Boone County Libertarian Party:
1. This is my very first post where I have ever typed the words "woe" or "complacment."
2. While Columbia is not as dense a population as some other towns, the concept of easing the demands of 501c3 agencies, such as the one mentioned in this article, is a concern of mine. Do you know if the Armory, public school buildings or churches would be able to take in people from the cold? Or, do you just get your jollies by begrudging others for their concerns?
Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | 12:58 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — It's a quarter to five at the Salvation Army Harbor House, and the cafeteria is already filling up for dinner. Green cots are stacked in the lobby, waiting for the flood of people who will be seeking a warm bed in Columbia for the night.

Harbor House was forced to turn away nearly 700 requests for shelter in the last three months, said director Jim Chapman. As jobs disappear and the temperature continues to drop in mid-Missouri, Harbor House is at capacity.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 16, 2009 | 9:26 p.m.

I get my jollies pointing out curmudgeons.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 16, 2009 | 11:37 p.m.

The following quotes are taken directly from the libertarian party platform.
III.7. Poverty and Unemployment
We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and "aid to the poor" programs. All these government programs are invasive of privacy, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.

***And if the need exceeds the resources of private groups, then what?

I.9.Government and Mental Health
We oppose the involuntary commitment of any person to or involuntary treatment in a mental institution. We strongly condemn Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC), where the patient is ordered to accept treatment, or else be committed to a mental institution and forcibly treated. We also oppose forced treatment for the elderly, the head-injured, or those with diminished capacity.

***Most of the homeless persons we see sleeping in doorways, and every mentally ill person we see ranting on a street corner, is a product of de-institutionalization.

Another View
Bruce Bartlett, in the Washington Times, December 20, 2006:

The LP is worse than a waste of time. I believe it has done far more to hamper the advancement of libertarian ideas and policies than to advance them. In my view, it is essential for the LP to completely disappear before libertarian ideas will again have political currency.

Over the years, I have known a great many people who have flirted with the LP, but were ultimately turned off by its political impotence and immaturity. C-SPAN runs LP conventions and viewers can see for themselves how unserious and childish they are. They show the LP is essentially a high-school-level debating club where only one question is ever debated -- who is the purest libertarian and what is the purest libertarian position? At times, serious people have tried to get control of the LP and make it a viable organization. But in the end, the crazies who like the LP just as it is have always run them off.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 17, 2009 | 4:59 a.m.

Golly gee whiz Ray, uberorganizer for the Barack Obama Collective Campaigning Collective or whatever, feel the need to post this all over the Internet?

Bruce Bartlett doesn't like the LP. He gets into more of the nitty-gritty of inter-party silliness that I doubt you understand 1% of since you are not even remotely interested in the party. Nothing personal and no offense intended, but it took me a while to figure out the whole radical/reformist schism, how much reading have you done on it?

As for the platform planks, do you think if a Libertarian was ever elected to President it would all be implemented immediately on the first day? No, it is what some Libertarians would like to move society towards. The Salvation Army, United Way, Voluntary Action Center, etc. etc. do a lot better job in their activities, goals, and missions than government. How's LBJ's War on Poverty working out, as JoeMiner asked a few months back? And I'll also point out that the article you linked to quotes planks from the platform that have not been in there since 2004 or so.

And getting back to the original topic of the Missourian thread before you got all weird on me, take a look at volunteers seeking a solution, rather than depending on government to do so. Maybe that's why the most-current story did not state the shelters were full:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 17, 2009 | 6:59 a.m.

Thank you for finally answering part of my question with Jeff Stack's Trib article, which was one that I had missed. I will call him and see if any of my contacts can help. Would you encourage Gary Nolan to reach out to him?
I know the Libertarian Party would like to see government out of social service programs, however in the almost ten years that I worked for United Way, out of Alexandria, Virgina, we worked in tandem with the Feds. Currently, there may be too much government involvement in social health and human care services, however, until a greater shift to voluntary non-profits, private businesses and churches achieve more, dependancy, responsiveness and proaction of the government will be essential.
The biggest problem I have seen in the government is due to its rigid
bureaucracy, "clerk" mentalities, pandering politicians and not enough effective "social worker" types.
Personallly, while Roosevelt helped Americans significantally, there never was a plan to shift these programs back to the private sector. Subsequently the government's entrenchment in this "human care" area became a big part of political business including brokering policies for votes.
Until a better cordination of responsiveness between government, non-profits, church leaders and others address who and how we adjust our roles and responsibilities, there will be difficulties in maxamizing our resources and becoming more effective in addressing the human condition.

(Report Comment)

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