The city is seeking proposals from organizations interested in providing services at a camp for the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic and from hotels or motels that can provide rooms for people who need to be either isolated or quarantined.

The deadline for responding to both requests for proposals is 5 p.m. Friday.

City purchasing agent Cale Turner issued both requests this past Friday. Each outlines the responsibilities of the city and the business or organization that wins the bid.

The request for proposals for “sanctioned homeless encampment services” indicates the city will provide an encampment site and mark it off for up to 70 individual 16-by-16-foot campsites. The city also would provide potable water, refuse containers, portable toilets, hand-washing stations and recorded staff and volunteer training.

Anyone bidding to provide the service must demonstrate that they can ensure a minimum of five trained staff or volunteers on-site at all times, maintain a log of everyone who enters and leaves the camp and provide three nutritious meals per day to each person at the camp. Those meals must be prepared in a kitchen that is permitted and inspected by the health department.

The camp vendor also must monitor the well-being of everyone on the site under the guidance of the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services and ensure proper hand-washing and access to personal hygiene supplies. It also must either provide a tent and sleeping bag in good condition for each camper or make sure they have their own.

The training requirements for staff and volunteers would cover personal safety, crisis intervention, COVID-19-related health and safety, crowd management and evacuation techniques.

The request from the city comes after a lengthy talk among Columbia City Council members at their meeting last Monday, which came after two attempts by Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp to establish a refuge for the homeless during the coronavirus outbreak. The first effort, providing shelter at the Welcome Inn, fell through, so Trapp established an open-air camp on property owned by developer Jack Maher at Providence and Blue Ridge roads. Complaints from neighbors forced Trapp to abandon that effort.

Trapp is now working to establish a car camp at the former Mid-City Lumber building on Paris Road for people who live in their cars. Trapp has said the homeless population is particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Exactly where the city will establish its “sanctioned camp” remains unclear. The council last week defeated a motion to set aside an area of a city park for a camp, but that was before City Manager John Glascock offered to take on the challenge of putting together a request for proposals.

The city also is looking for a hotel or motel to provide rooms for people who might need to be isolated or quarantined during the pandemic and cannot safely do so at home. It said in its request for proposals that it would need up to 10 rooms to isolate people who test positive for the coronavirus and 15 to quarantine people who have had direct contact with someone who tested positive.

“The timeline of the quarantine/isolation period is uncertain; roughly, it could begin in mid-April and continue throughout the summer,” the document said.

The city will train the hotel or motel staff on how to handle the guests’ needs, the request for proposals said, and it would provide adequate cleaning supplies. It also plans to hire someone to prepare meals for those who must stay in the rooms.

King suites are preferred because the patient or person will have to remain in the room for his or her entire stay, the document said. The hotel or motel would not be required to provide daily cleaning of the rooms, but it would be responsible for providing fresh linens and for disposing of the guests’ trash, which would be double-bagged, up to twice per day.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, Boone County had 79 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, and 12 of them remained active, according to a city news release. The state reported 82 cases for the county.

Missourian reporter Lianna Kowalke contributed to this report.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • I've been a reporter and editor at Missouri community newspapers for 35 years and joined the Columbia Missourian in 2003. My emphasis at the Missourian is on local government and elections. You can reach me at swaffords@missouri.edu or at 573-884-5366.

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