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Update: Homeless Opportunity Center

Update: November 9, 2022

Ward 1 Councilwoman Pat Fowler will be meeting with Loop CID business and property owners on Monday, November 14 at 6 pm to discuss the proposed homeless facilities planned for the property east of the power plant. She has concerns about accessibility on that stretch of Business Loop and let's be honest, most of east Business Loop lacks sidewalks, curb cuts, and crosswalks so we are all aware it's a problem for everyone.

We are working with Dive Bar to host a virtual AND in-person meeting at their restaurant at 1116 Business Loop East. Dive Bar has graciously offered to provide refreshments.

Councilwoman Fowler will Zoom in. We also intend to allow for members to Zoom in as well.

Link to join Webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83970721298 

Call in number:
1 (312) 626-6799

Webinar ID:
839 7072 1298

To sign up for our Loop Member newsletter, email Carrie Gartner at [email protected].

Update: October 14, 2022

You may have heard that the Voluntary Action Center has proposed placing their planned Homeless Opportunity Campus on the northeast corner of Business Loop 70 and Bowling Street, just east of the power plant. This facility would provide temporary housing, medical services, storage, showers, and services. Additionally, the City has recently purchased the VFW Post on Ashley St. with the intent of moving Room at the Inn's winter shelter there. (Please visit the links for the most current information we have about these plans.)

Deputy City Manager Mike Griggs met with members to discuss the proposals, review how the City would manage any overflow effects, and take input from Loop members. 

Based on the comments from attendees, we have two interconnected issues--the current problems with homelessness, vandalism, drug use, etc. and the concern that adding two new facilities to the street will make the problems worse rather than offer a solution.

VFW Hall/Room at the Inn (RATI)

Room at the Inn (https://roomattheinncomo.org/) manages overnight accommodations during the winter months from 7 pm to 7 am. RATI provides some services and daily transportation from their location to other social service agencies or to other daytime warming centers in Columbia. Last winter, RATI rotated between various churches but they don't have the space to accommodate everyone in need. The overflow is currently at Wabash downtown and CPD monitors that space. The City's planned purchase of the VFW Hall at 1509 Ashley St. (just off the Bus Loop) would give RATI more space. The City would own the building but the facility would be managed by RATI. The City does not yet know what the building would be used for during the warmer months. 

This purchase will be voted on at the Council Meeting on Oct. 17 and they will accept public comment.

Voluntary Action Center (VAC) Homeless Opportunity Campus

This facility is currently planned for the corner of Bus Loop and Bolling, east of the power plant. Mike Griggs had less information about this facility--the city meets with folks from VAC today. Loop CID representatives met with VAC recently and the facility is designed for short-term housing, possible cold weather overflow, medical and mental health services, showers, storage, vet services, job services, and more.

At this point, neither VAC nor the City has an operational plan to manage any potential problems that may occur. This does not mean that a plan will not be in place, it means they are early in the process and it will be up to all of us to offer input on that plan should the project move forward. VAC's purchase of the property is dependent on City ARPA funds and significant additional funding. If they can secure funding, it would be in operation within three years. 

Member concerns included:

  • The current state of public safety along the Business Loop, including homeless individuals, drug use, trash, vandalism, etc.
  • These two new facilities could increase these problems.
  • Lack of sidewalks, bus lines, or other safe means of transportation in this area.
  • General neglect of this area (no sidewalks, overhead lines, etc.) so that these facilities would discourage investment and increase the negative public perception of the area. 
  • Lack of a plan for overflow problems where people refused entry due to shelter rules regarding substance abuse and behavior problems remain in the area.
  • Programs that unintentionally enable bad behavior. 
  • Lack of a general operations/public safety plan for the area.
  • Impact on property values and sales for the surrounding area.

Mike Griggs reported that the City is working on an operations plan for the VFW that will help manage public safety issues, address transportation needs, and determine how the building will be used during the warmer months. He was honest in letting us know that there are many questions they do not yet have the answers to. He also believes that having RATI, an established operation, in the area will allow them to start small when identifying unforeseen problems and use this experience to create a more comprehensive operations plan for the VAC facility. He was open to working with us to address our concerns. 

He was able to tell us that the bus route will be extended to this section of the street. Any new development (such as VAC's) would require building sidewalks but there is no immediate plan to add a larger sidewalk network.

The city also contracts with a local firm that provides direct outreach, coaching and referrals for homeless and other struggling individuals. He will get us their contact info and any Loop members may call and request assistance. 

In response to questions about CPD patrols on state property (Bus Loop is a state road and the off-ramps and property surrounding I70 are state owned as well), we discussed a new state law that would allow cities to police state property. 

Next Steps:

  • Attend City Council to share our concerns (City Council emails here.)
  • Establish regular monthly meetings with the city, CPD, and social service agencies to share our concerns, report problems, and offer input for change 
  • Monitor the progress and advocate for actions that will protect the business climate on the Business Loop
  • Distribute contact information to members regarding who to call for public safety or social service need

Original Post: October 10, 2022

You may have heard that the Voluntary Action Center has proposed placing their planned Homeless Opportunity Campus on the northeast corner of Business Loop 70 and Bowling Street, just east of the power plant. This facility would provide temporary housing, medical services, storage, showers, and services. Additionally, the City has recently purchased the VFW Post on Ashley St. with the intent of moving Room at the Inn's winter shelter there. (Please visit the links for the most current information we have about these plans.)

The Loop community has welcomed a number of social service agencies to the street---Boys and Girls Club, Welcome Home, and soon the Central Pantry---so we recognize the need they fulfill and the importance of an accessible location. We also want smart solutions to problems we see along the Business Loop, such as people sleeping in doorways, stashing belongings in loading docks, limited treatment options for mental illness and substance abuse, and so forth.

However, we are concerned that locating these two projects on our street has the potential to impact the work we’ve done to boost the Loop economy and may upset the business mix we’ve worked so hard to balance. The Business Loop---particularly the east end---has been overlooked for years and the Loop CID Board is very concerned that locating homeless services in an area already suffering from neglect will create new problems for us. We've seen in other cities how a mismanaged shelter---or a lack of management of overflow effects---can negatively impact an area. (The full letter we sent to Council is available on our website.)

Assistant City Manager Mike Griggs has offered to meet with us to discuss the proposals, review how the city would manage any overflow effects, and take input from Loop members. 

Please join us on Thursday, October 13 from 8:30 to 9:30 am. We will be meeting at the MACCLab Makerspace Conference Room in the lower level of Parkade Plaza. Enter the main south-facing doors and head straight down the stairs. The MACCLab Makerspace is at the end of the hallway, suite 216. An elevator is located in the center of the building.

So we can best manage attendance, please RSVP to Carrie Gartner at [email protected].

14 Business Loop 70 East
Columbia, MO 65203
[email protected]

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