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Columbia Missourian

Homeless shelter to move from downtown church site

By Mengni Yang
December 23, 2011 | 5:42 p.m. CST

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.  

Helping out

Sign up:

To volunteer or for other information related to Room at the Inn, contact the Rev. Keith Vessell at the Missouri United Methodist Church, 443-3111, or via email at

You can also go to the website:


Blankets,  socks, gloves, used coats and food. 

Donations may be dropped off at the first-floor welcome desk or second-floor offices of the church, 204 S. Ninth St.

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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.