Homeless shelter to move from downtown church site

Friday, December 23, 2011 | 5:42 p.m. CST; updated 10:25 p.m. CST, Friday, December 23, 2011

COLUMBIA — It was cold outside Wednesday as Guy Jones stood outside Lakota Coffee Co. on Ninth Street. Homeless since 2002, Jones faces another winter on the streets and in shelters.

Jones said he has been to many homeless shelters in Columbia, but his favorite is the Room at the Inn at the Missouri United Methodist Church on Ninth Street.  

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“People there really care about you," he said. "They respect you.”

But this year, there will be no such shelter for Jones downtown because the Methodist Church is moving Room at the Inn to 804 Old 63 N., a site donated by the Total Environments Garden Center. The new shelter will open Jan. 1.

Since 2009, the church has provided overnight shelter to people in need. The church offers cots, blankets, clothes and food. The Rev. Keith Vessell, associate pastor at Missouri United Methodist Church, said the reason for the move is to make Room at the Inn more of a community rather than a church-driven project. He also wants to continue increasing awareness of the need for homeless shelters.

“By not having the shelter at Missouri United Methodist Church, we are able to continue with the establishment of this shelter being a city responsibility,” Vessell said.

The church is partnering with at least 10 others, including Broadway Christian Church and Calvary Episcopal Church. Vessell also is looking for more partners.

Knute Jacobson, rector at Calvary Episcopal Church, said his church mainly provides the shelter with staff. He said it sent 40 people to help Room at the Inn last year, and the number will increase this year. He expects more than 100 volunteers from various churches will become involved.

“Basically the homeless shelter is open at night to keep people out of the cold," Jacobson said. "We need people to be their supervisors at night and in the morning help do the cleanup and breakfast.”

Some homeless people, however, said moving Room at the Inn might not be a good idea.  

Jones wishes Room at the Inn could remain in the Missouri United Methodist Church multipurpose room because it's within reach of homeless people who frequent downtown. He said many homeless people hang around the Wabash Station or stay inside the Columbia Public Library during the day.

“We do what we do just to survive," Jones said. "Every morning when we wake up, we don’t know what we are gonna eat, where we are gonna stay, shower and sleep.”

Vessell said the new shelter will provide up to 40 beds for homeless people and will accept all seeking shelter.

Vessell said he fears there might be more homeless people this year because of the economic recession. An Associated Press article published by the Missourian earlier this month reported a shrinking of the middle class. It cited U.S. Census data showing that the rising cost of living has caused nearly one in two people are living on low-incomes or in poverty. 

According to the data provided by the Missouri Interagency Council on Homelessness, the number of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in  Boone County in 2010 was 492. The number this year is 416

Both Vessell and Knute said the biggest challenge for Room at the Inn will be the number of volunteers.

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Delcia Crockett December 24, 2011 | 12:41 p.m.

If they are there for only one night, then where do they go next?

Can you imagine, there is no more frightful terror to a cold and hungry child than not knowing where it will lay its head at night to sleep, or where its next meal will be, or even if it will be?

How can we do more for the children who are cold and hungry with suddenly no place to go?

This article is indicative of one solution process in the making. Can there be a way so no child will be hungry, cold or homeless but that all can feel safe and well-fed?

Culumbia churches and community, this is something we need to take an anchor to and make people aware just how many cold, hungry and homeless there are in this town.

No dead body should be found in some homeless camp in winter any where around us, and we should not simply walk by and not see the cold, hungry and those without shelter - most especially the children who suffer in our midst in this way. This just should not happen in this town.

~Delcia Crockett

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub December 24, 2011 | 2:11 p.m.

Delcia, you are very right, we as a community should be able to provide the basics to all who need it. Nothing has saddened me more than to see this wonderful country, the wealthiest in the world having so many souls with no place to turn. Especially the young and elderly. Where did we go wrong?

One of the things which has exacerbated this is those with black hearts continuously feeding lies to the public, lies convincing many people that all homeless people are there because of bad choices they have made. There is no debating whether there are some that take advantage of those who give, whether they are an alcoholic street-person, or an executive with 7 figure salaries. However, the truth is most people who are without food and shelter were put into a state of affairs beyond their control. Of course it is far easier to look down upon those without than those with, as, apparently, the black hearts strive to be one of those at the top taking advantage of the system they created for themselves.

Education is what is needed, which is where the media can help repay their free use of our resources. More human interest stories about those that have found themselves in this position. More stories about those who help, and less about what those that want us to believe that all our problems come from helping those in need.

Happy holidays to all.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield December 24, 2011 | 10:46 p.m.

Gary and Bunny, how many homeless adults and children have you taken into your homes this year?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking December 25, 2011 | 5:29 a.m.

Gary Straub wrote:

"There is no debating whether there are some that take advantage of those who give, whether they are an alcoholic street-person, or an executive with 7 figure salaries."

A person with a 7 figure salary (and there are maybe 500 of them in the US today) answers to people who think he's worth it. Who do you know that sets his own salary?

The alcoholic street person generally lives for his next drink, and as such, isn't likely to get ahead in life. But it's no one's fault but his own if he doesn't get help.


(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield December 25, 2011 | 12:20 p.m.

"Education is what is needed, which is where the media can help repay their free use of our resources. More human interest stories about those that have found themselves in this position."

Here's one:

"Birkhead bragged about having a telemarketing job waiting for him in Virginia that paid $700 or more per week but said he preferred the carefree life. 'It’s a choice,' he said."

He's clearly "found" himself in a "position" he likes.

How do we ensure that the safety net doesn't catch people who choose that lifestyle -- or to have kids they can't support -- and then expect others to pick up the tab when the going gets rough?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 27, 2011 | 2:34 p.m.

I would think that if a person, a parent, a couple or a family desired to use a homeless shelter run by a "church group possible partnership with the city," then those who might have other resources to attain shelter must be either maximizing their own personal resources or mentally ill, considering the quality of these "bare-boned" last options for shelter from the cold.
I would hope that as good stewards of finances, the church group maintains a clearinghouse or intake interview to avoid/minimize abuse of the shelter and the city can answer to the voters/taxpayers.
While consolidating homeless shelter resources is a good thing, I wonder if the Methodist Church on Ninth Street was "encouraged" to get the homeless users out of downtown.
Somewhat related, I attended their Christmas-Eve Service at 7pm and found the "sermon" claiming that the Occupy Movement started with the birth of Christ in some kind of "Occupy Bethlehem" presentation which seemed to put down England's royal culture, including Churchill and the Princess Diana wedding, without any mention of the local violence by England's "Occupying" crowd and also gave support to the Occupy Wall Street movement by encouraging attendees to resent the wealth of the one percenters.
It was the weirdest Christmas Eve sermon I've ever heard and reeked of a liberal progressive slant.
At the same time, if it all began in Bethlehem, why displace the homeless?
Is the Methodist Church on ninth street also displacing the LGQBT community as well or is their still room at the ninth street Methodist Church for them?

(Report Comment)

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