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Wilkes Boulevard church dedicates space to day shelter for homeless

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | 8:25 p.m. CDT; updated 7:07 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Columbia Chamber of Congress Ambassador Dennis Lynch, left, holds the ceremonial ribbon for the grand opening of Turning Point, a resource facility for people in need, at the Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church on Tuesday. The center will expand its services to homeless in Columbia by providing a place to store personal belongings, a permanent mailing address, and offers a place to do laundry and shower.

COLUMBIA — Last summer, Lisa Payne would have gone to Turning Point for other reasons. On Tuesday, though, Payne, who was formerly homeless, cut the ribbon at the grand opening for Turning Point, a resource center for homeless and low-income people.

Located on the second floor of Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church, 702 Wilkes Blvd., Turning Point includes the Columbia Interfaith Day Center. The center was renting a much smaller apartment at 616 Park Ave. from the Columbia Housing Authority and now is installed for free, long term, in the church.

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As part-time manager of the facility, Payne will help homeless people through services such as job meetings and housing opportunities. She will work with another person who knows homelessness firsthand: Dahne Yeager, who will continue managing the day center.

Payne wanted Turning Point to be clean and safe, a place where things get accomplished, she said. It has 1,000 square feet, four times more room than the day center's former location. It has been open since March 24. Hours are from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

There is room for about 40 homeless and low-income people to rest, shower and do laundry, the church's Rev. Meg Hegemann said. She expects between 15 and 20 people on an average day.

The new location provides:

  • four showers — two for women, two for men
  • five toilets
  • a private office for meetings
  • a laundry room and a baby-changing table
  • Internet and telephone access
  • housing and job boards

The center also provides computers, a mailing address for those who need one and a secured place for personal papers such as IDs or birth certificates, because homeless people often get robbed, Hegemann said. Payne also plans to develop resume sessions and computer classes.

Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen, located in the basement of the church, will continue to provide meals every day from 5 to 6:15 p.m. However, unlike the Park Avenue location, Turning Point won’t provide lunches and will close a little earlier than the day center had in its previous location.

"We’ll have less time during the day, but we’ll have more facilities available," said Heat Chipman, a visitor who used to go to the day shelter on Park Avenue. "I hope we’ll be able to get our stuff done quicker."

Hegemann hopes the new place will help people to interact and volunteer more, serving both the community and the visitors of the center.

The plan had been for the center to rent space from the church and be the only organization in that space, Hegemann said. But as the September 2013 move-in date was postponed, members of the church decided to get more involved and make the space available for free for other agencies and organizations.

Payne said she was hired as the church's representative to coordinate with the day center and potential other partners.

The name Turning Point has meaning behind it. "It’s not a place to just hang out but to turn things around," Hegemann said.

Payne and Hegemann both said homeless people sometimes don’t know what they can benefit from and how they can be more connected to the community.

"We’ll be working with folks to identify what sort of volunteer opportunities there might be in the community, to help them realize that there really are places that they can be — and not just be, but where they are valued and needed," Hegemann said. "I want them to know that we can be working together to improve the community."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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