Cold Weather Shelter Town Hall Meetings
Asbury United Methodist Church is discerning whether to host an emergency cold-weather shelter from November 2021 through April 2022 any time the overnight temperature dips to 32 degrees or lower Asbury is offering two Town Hall Meetings to hear any concerns, thoughts or encouragement and answer any questions about this effort. We especially would like to hear from surrounding neighbors on this effort. If you would like to personally contact Asbury, call Pastor Erika at 417-865-1335, email her at egravely@AsburyUnitedMethodist.org or stop by the church office 9am-2pm, Monday through Thursday. Our church leadership council, Mission Vision, will vote on this on Thursday, September 9.
The effort to host a shelter on our own requires more volunteers and funding that we can provide on our own, yet through God’s providence, a group of Collaborating Churches, Brentwood Christian, National Avenue Christian and Unitarian Universalist, have opened up low-barrier emergency shelters in this past year and are looking to partner with a location closer to downtown Springfield. They have the experience, resources and volunteers to provide while Asbury can provide the space in our Fellowship Hall and offer additional volunteers and resources in response to living into our Vision of offering Risk-Taking Mission & Service as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
Parameters for Opening Asbury as a Shelter
These three churches would combine with Asbury to provide one large shelter closer to downtown Springfield. According to the City of Springfield’s Calamity Declaration (which goes into effect when the homeless rate in Springfield is higher than the state average) Asbury is able to open as a shelter. According to child safety laws, any shelter must be further than the distance of 1,000’ from a school, and Asbury is at a further location. A bus stop is also a short distance south of the property to bring guests to and from the shelter. Guests would enter/exit through the south entrance only. Areas open to the shelter would be the Fellowship Hall, kitchen, bathrooms and nearby library for volunteers to rest. All other areas of the building would be locked. Storage would either be in the Fellowship Hall or in a classroom. We are looking to provide shelter for 40-50 guests.
Statistics on Homelessness:
- 4 in 10 workers in the US are living paycheck to paycheck and could not afford an emergency costing over $1,000. Springfield has a 25% poverty rate. Too many of us are closer to the possibility of becoming homeless than we’d like to admit.
- No one working a fulltime minimum wage job can afford housing in MO. In the Springfield metro area, to afford rental housing at the appropriate portion of total expenses, at a minimum wage job, you’d have to work over 40 hours a week for even a studio apartment. If you have a kid, a 2-bdrm rental would take 57 hrs/wk. https://reports.nlihc.org/oor/missouri
- In Missouri: We have a shortage of -122,075 rental homes affordable and available for extremely low income renters
- Within 18 months of emancipation 40-50% of foster youth become homeless. And 50% of adult homeless individuals spent some time in foster care. These are children who have had their social networks destroyed for any number of reasons, but not their own fault, who grow to be adults who still don’t have the support networks to thrive.
- 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, and the majority are homeless due to family rejection.
- Many of us have social networks that might pull together to help us if we faced a crisis. Or insurance to help cover costs. Benefits that allow us time away from work while still getting paid. But many people do not have these things. A broken down car can turn into losing your job which can turn into losing your home. A medical emergency, a cancer diagnosis, can similarly spiral. For some, that medical condition may be addiction, and reliance on substance use with no real access to recovery or treatment. Drug possession or DUI can land a person in jail, especially people of color. Addiction, some mental illness, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, all of these can contribute to someone having difficulty operating in mainstream society, and may result in someone losing their home. So while oftentimes people who are experiencing homelessness may be seen as criminals because they’ve faced arrest, or may be suffering from a medical/mental condition and/or may be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, homeless people are not, necessarily or by definition violent criminals. You are invited learn more, hear stories of some in our community, here are a few offerings:
- KSMU is currently running a series “Unsheltered,” by listening you can hear from the voices of our unsheltered neighbors and advocates a glimpse of what they face especially during this pandemic.
- Local photographer Randy Bacon started a project 7 Billion Ones, while not all of the profiles are of those experiencing homelessness, there are many collected here.
- The Connecting Grounds is another local church we partner with frequently that does a tremendous amount of outreach to our unsheltered neighbors. Check out this video they did during Homelessness Awareness Month.
The Purpose of Hosting an Emergency Cold Weather Shelter:
- Our job is to create a safe, comfortable environment for people to sleep. All our policies and rules revolve around that statement.
- Hospitality is our mantra. (food, clothing, comfort)
- We treat them like guests staying in our home.
Actual Nights Open November-April: 74
8 Shelter locations provided
5,907 bed-nights of shelter Oct 29, 2020-April 21,2021
Operating as a Low-Barrier Shelter
Most shelters in Springfield have barriers in place for who can stay there: only men, only women, only youth, only children. This shelter would provide a safe space for LGBTQIA+ individuals to don’t comfortably fall into those categories, couples/people supporting each other, and individuals with dogs. Often times guests are fighting the cold all day that all they want to do is get a good night’s sleep.
Two volunteers are present at all times. A third volunteer is used for check-in from 7:30-10pm. Funding has been raised to employ someone to work at the shelter 6 days/week. Outside of the shelter operations, there are volunteers for cleaning crew, laundry delivery to Enterprise Laundry (free cleaning service for shelters). Last year the Collaborating Churches had over 60 volunteers dedicated to this effort, but more will be needed with a shift in location and life events.
Asbury Working in Conjunction with Several Other Services
Asbury and the Collaborating Churches will not be doing this on their own. They work in partnership with 6 other shelters in Springfield, Community Partnership of the Ozarks, City Utilities busses, the Police Department and Connecting Grounds. There is a strong active line of communication between shelters to provide solutions to problems such as someone trying to find shelter at one that is full, or emergency items that are needed.
- Guests sleep 6 ft apart – You can choose how many people you want to accommodate (Ex: 5,000 Sq Ft gym can accommodate 50 single people)
- 2 bathrooms
- Beverage station (cold and hot water at minimum)
- Kitchen for meals and snack storage if available
- Wifi access available to volunteers
- Semi-private volunteer area
- Outdoor area for smoking and potty area if dogs are allowed at the shelter
The Shelter Schedule:
3pm- deadline to determine if emergency cold weather shelters are opened for the night
7:30pm- Volunteers Arrive
7:45pm – Guests can begin to arrive
8:00pm- Doors Open
10pm – Lights Out
10pm-6am – Quiet Hours
6am – Wake Up
7am – Guests leave
Daytime – cleaning crew resets for the next night.
Supplies needed (provided by Collaborating Churches)
- 1 cot / guest
- Sheets, pillows, blankets
- Tables and chairs
- Air purifiers (would need accessible electrical outlets)
- First Aid supplies (pain reliever, thermometer, cough drops, tissue, feminine hygiene products, needle receptacle, benadryl, etc.)
- Cleaning supplies
- Hand sanitizer
- Face masks
- Hot liquid cups, napkins, etc
Optional Supplies for Dogs:
- Food/water dishes
- Shopping bags for poop cleanup
- Dog food & treats
- Collars & Leashes
Most costs are currently covered by donations and grants procured by Collaborating Churches. These include:
- A hired staff person to be present at the shelter 6 days/week to ensure consistency
- Cleaning/Disinfecting Products
- Cab rides
- Bus passes
- Shelter Phone
Direct cost to Asbury:
- Possible 25-30% increase in utilities
- Estimated $125 increase in insurance coverage/year
If Asbury decides to host this Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, leadership and the Collaborating Churches will assess at the end of the season if it is viable to resume this effort in the following season. Asbury would appreciate an open line of communication with the surrounding community if there are any issues that are arising from this effort. Asbury strives help our community with the issue of homelessness, but it is also important for us to be good neighbors with the surrounding community. Please contact us at any time.