Homeless advocates call for improved transitional options

Feb 15, 2013

Following the recent cleanup of several homeless camps in Columbia, advocates say there is a shortage of effective transitional housing in the city.

Earlier this week, homeless people were asked to vacate a cluster of camps around Hinkson Creek, north of Interstate 70 and Highway 63. The camps were pitched on city property. Columbia Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director Mike Griggs says the conditions were unsanitary. 

When city workers have cleaned up other homeless camps during summer months, Griggs says, people displaced often have simply relocated to a nearby site. When relocated in the colder months, people are more likely to accept help. 

Among the shelters where the homeless may seek refuge is the Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church, which shelters up to 30 homeless people in the winter.

Pastor Meg Hegemann says most of Columbia’s shelters place limits on the amount of time people can stay, and it’s often not enough for them to get on their feet.

“That window of time helps people to try to get back on their feet, but we also have to have something for them to transition into. And we don’t have a whole lot options right now," Hegemann says. “Really more permanent shelter and affordable housing is what’s needed, and services to help folks get into secure housing," Hegemann says. 

Regarding the recent closure of the homeless campsites, she doesn't fault the city. But, she says, a concerted community-wide effort is needed to address the shortage of secure housing in the city.