A new initiative to serve Colombia’s chronically homeless population is set to launch Nov. 1, city officials say.
Rapid Shelter Columbia is a transitional housing project located on city property at 194 Calhoun Street. It consists of 50 individual sleeping cabins, 40 for men and 10 for women. The new facility will be open year-round and will include 24-hour security, on-site case management services and catering services.
Sleeping cabins are manufactured by Pallet in Everett, Washington, and include a bed, heating and air conditioning, electricity, and USB charging ports. The project includes a total of 54 cabins, four of which are reserved for staff and security use.
Mayor Daniel Rickenmann and other city and community leaders provided updates on the new project and showed community members some of the completed sleeping cabins at an event on October 26. The construction of some cabins is in progress.
The project is the result of months of work by a municipal homelessness task force and is designed to serve men and women who are not good candidates for traditional homeless shelters with group housing.
“This is a new era in addressing homelessness here at Columbia and provides these men and women with a dignified option to get the help they need,” said City Manager Teresa Wilson.
Officials estimate that around 250 people in the city are the project’s target population. The number of people considered chronically homeless has risen in recent months and prompted increased calls to law enforcement and other officials about crime, urination and public defecation , begging and other issues, city officials said. Some businesses in downtown Columbia said customers were concerned about safety.
Many of those living on the streets also have physical and mental health needs that the new shelter can help meet, officials said.
“This is a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and it won’t solve Colombia’s homelessness problem, but it will help reduce it,” Rickenmann said.
The city also recently hired a new director of homeless services, Kameisha Heppard, whose responsibilities include the development of Rapid Shelter Columbia.
Heppard said clients would only come to Rapid Shelter on referral from other services. Social workers will soon begin assessing applications and hope to initially place 10 people at the shelter once it opens. Clients will be able to stay at the shelter for up to 90 days. The shelter is only open to people who lived within the city limits.
“I’m excited to do something here that hasn’t been done before in the Southeast,” Heppard said. “The goal will be to provide stabilization to these clients, whether they need mental health services, help with addictions or other issues. We want to help resolve whatever led them to homelessness.
Heppard said the shelter will offer some services to clients on-site and transportation will be provided to help clients get to doctor’s appointments, job interviews and other appointments.
The ultimate goal will be to guide clients into some sort of permanent housing, Heppard said.
Safety and security are a major concern of this new project, which the city plans to address with 24/7 security provided by a private company. Columbia City Police Chief WH “Skip” Holbrook said the department will work with shelter staff and the security company to resolve any escalating issues that require law enforcement intervention. ‘order.
The focus will be on resolving conflict, de-escalating situations and addressing mental health needs, Holbrook said.
The communal dormitories that already exist at the Calhoun Street location will continue to be used to accommodate excess population in the event of inclement weather.
Contact Christina Lee Knauss at 803-753-4327.