Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia will donate most of its building to Room at the Inn from December 13 to March 14, according to a news release from the church sent Thursday.
Unitarian Universalist Church's sanctuary, classrooms and foyer will be partitioned into 10 foot square spaces to allow for a safe shelter experience during the winter of a COVID-19 pandemic, according to the release.
"We know that our location is not ideal for Room at the Inn. We are off the beaten path for our guests, and our space is not very large," the Rev. Molly Housh Gordon said in the release. "However, as the only large enough congregation able to offer our facility for the entire season, we know that the alternative of leaving people without safe shelter during dangerously cold temperatures is anathema to our faith."
Because of the church's worship services, small groups and other ministries congregating online, the church decided to help Room at the Inn by providing some extra space for the winter.
UU Church partners with RATI, a nonprofit organization, every year, the news release said. RATI provides emergency winter shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Columbia. The organization's shelter typically rotates from December to March through different churches with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
RATI has arranged additional space to house quarantined and isolated people who may be medically vulnerable, exposed or sick with COVID-19, according to the release. UU Church encouraged young, low-risk and healthy people to volunteer, as many of RATI's typical volunteers are at-risk. It also encourages financial support and donations from the community.
UU Church believes a permanent city-sponsored shelter and daytime facility could help provide a better situation for those in need, and urges "neighbors to advocate to the city leadership for a better solution for Columbians without a safe place to stay," according to the release. Because a city-sponsored shelter is not forthcoming, the church said RATI is ready to fill the gap this winter.