Report expected at Monday’s Columbia City Council meeting outlines efforts to end homelessness

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

According to its agenda, the Columbia City Council will share a report on homelessness with the public Monday.

The report addresses the issue of homelessness in the community by giving citizens a deeper look into the resources that are being made available by the city and state to end homelessness.

The report also includes information about the city’s night heat center program.

The report outlines the city’s long-standing leadership in tackling community homelessness, but also in contracting local providers for human, health and housing support services; Supporting community providers and coordinating state, federal, and local resources.

According to the report, the city has had decades of contracts with municipal basic providers for people, health and housing services. Funding for these contracts comes primarily from funding from the city’s general social services revenue and federal CDBG/HOME funding received from the city.

Room at the Inn, Project Bridge, The Salvation Army Harbor House, and Turning Point are services for the homeless described in the report.

The Columbia Housing Authority, Central Missouri Community Action, Love Columbia, Rock the Community and the Voluntary Action Center are housing support services detailed in the report.

Major Curtiss Hartley, regional coordinator for the Salvation Army’s Mid-Missouri area, says based on his experience in helping the homeless that there are two distinct homeless camps in the Mid-Missouri area.

“There are the chronically homeless who have been chronically homeless for years due to mental health/abuse issues. Sometimes they live and sleep comfortably outside. Then there are the new and truly homeless who, particularly because of COVID, have seen their lives change, that they are left without a place to sleep or stay,” Hartley said.

Hartley said all local homeless services work with the goal of potentially ending homelessness.

“They are working towards Functional O, which is a great goal. It’s a really big deal, it’s a lot more than people might think, in a lot of ways, seeing someone on the corner with a sign is a relatively invisible problem,” Hartley said.

Hartley said it takes a lot of resources and logistics to run an agency and the city shouldn’t have to deal with the problems alone.

“There are issues that most of us take for granted and don’t think about what it takes to run a facility like this in terms of security, the material goods that are made available to them and the cleaning up afterwards,” Hartley said. “In our view, the city shouldn’t have to deal with these things, the private sector is really the one that has the expertise and experience to deal with these issues.”

Hartley said he commends the city for finding solutions to address some of the issues encountered in running services for the homeless.

“I commend the city for deliberately looking for solutions to solve the problem and as she underlined, I think it’s very important that they’re able to work with those of us who are in the industry Providing services to people experiencing poverty trust in our experience, expertise, capacity and skills to continue to do so,” said Hartley.

Hartley said the agency wishes it could continue to work with the city and receive funding to restructure and expand its operations.

“Our hope, of course, is that some of the funds that have been made available, particularly over the past year, could help agencies like the Salvation Army and others to form partnerships around the city to develop additional facilities and to expand our facilities so that they the larger ones can handle capacities that are needed at the time,” Hartley said.

Hartley said the city should be able to rely on the private sector.

“And that’s how it really should be, the city can rely on the private sector, on those agencies that work with city, county and state governments. We’re the ones who have the facilities, we have the staff, we have the experience, and so use those resources to help us expand your operations to meet that need,” Hartley said.

Hartley said there are ways the community can help support homeless services.

“Two ways, one of the first and easiest is to give financial support to those of us who are in the business. It takes a lot of staff and facilities and things like that to run. So donations and blankets and pillows and things like that for any of us agencies could be a benefit in some way.” Hartley said. “Another way to get involved is to go to the city council and get informed and educate yourself and speak up for it To advocate that the city shouldn’t be able to use their taxpayer money or the federal money that comes to them to provide a service that many of us in the private sector are ready and available and experienced to use.”

In support of the community’s goal of ending homelessness, set at the city’s 2016 Homeless Summit, a large amount of city social services has been allocated to homeless services for FY2022.

FY2022 social service contracts include $302,446.29 for homeless services. In 2016, the city invested $68,200.00 in homeless services.

Increasing the fund has required the city to reduce the number and amount of contracts for children, her, family services, and mental health services. The cuts were made due to the passage of the Boone County Children’s Services and Medicaid expansion.

The city is proud that despite intensive support, none of its accommodations have closed doors or stopped accepting new guests during the pandemic.

Funding for city homelessness programs is provided through a combination of local, state, and federal funding sources, private foundations and support organizations, faith-based organizations, and direct support to nonprofit providers.

According to the report, city employees play a key role in spreading the word to the community about available resources. Many community members have access to state and federal resources and philanthropic resources.

Watch ABC 17 News at 10 p.m

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