COLUMBIA — On the second floor of Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church, uninstalled toilets lean against freshly painted green and pink walls. Wiring cables hang freely. Floor plans lie on tables scattered across the room.
The Rev. Meg Hegemann strolls through the room, which could be the new location for the Columbia Interfaith Day Center as soon as February.
“We have a bunch of other painting to do,” she tells Walker Thomas, a retired electrician who volunteered to install wire on the church's second floor.
When the work is done, between 40 and 50 homeless people will be able to rest, shower and eat there during the day.
The center has planned to move into the church since September. Though the move has been delayed a few months, the new location will be able to serve more people with better facilities.
Currently, the shelter operates out of a rented apartment at 606 Park Ave. The center offers the homeless a chance to shower, eat a hot meal and stay out of the cold. People can also leave their belongings at the center and use its address to receive mail.
Tom Leuther, chairman of the Columbia Interfaith Resource Center, which runs the shelter, estimates that 300 to 400 people are homeless in Columbia.
Dahne Yeager, the center's manager, said the number of visitors to the shelter has increased over the years. He doesn't have official numbers, but he started to count the visitors in January.
More space, more facilities
The center will rent 1,000 square feet of space from Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist — four times more room than its current location. Hegemann said the new location will feature:
- four showers — two for women, two for men
- five toilets
- a private office
- a laundry room
- a baby-changing table
The center's current location has one restroom, and Yeager's desk sits in the main room.
The church serves up to 100 meals to homeless people every night, Hegemann said, and the center will be able to use the church's basement kitchen.
Yeager hopes the move will make the shelter more visible, so more people will use it.
He has been waiting for the move since September. The center's visitors ask Yeager every day when the center will move, "and I tell them the same thing, ‘I don’t know,’” he said.
Hegemann hopes the new accommodations will be finished within two weeks, though she does not have any official date for the move.
Midwest Renovations manager Mike McCarrell said the church has to fix the sinks in the bathrooms and complete the wiring before his employees can finish up their work.
Already looking for a new location
Though the Wilkes Boulevard location will mean additional space for the day center, organizers said they're already looking for a new, more permanent location — one they can own, not rent.
Leuther doesn't know how long the center will stay at Wilkes Boulevard, since the center needs more funding to buy it.
Leuther said coming to the church was an important demonstration of cooperation between philanthropic organizations, but "if we compare our situation to other places in Missouri, we are behind.”
Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.