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City, Community Partners Unveil Efforts to Help Individuals Experiencing Homelessness Stay Warm, Safe During Winter

December 19, 2022

[COLUMBUS] -- Today, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin and Councilmember Shayla Favor, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, joined with community leaders to discuss plans to assist individuals experiencing homelessness access to warm spaces and resources this winter. The plan includes daytime warming centers, temporary overnight warming centers, and contingency sites for extreme cold events, including snow emergencies and sub-zero temperatures. This additional infrastructure will stack atop Community Shelter Board’s annual Winter Overflow Plan. 

“Each year, individuals without housing fall ill or even die due to cold weather. That’s a heartbreaking reality which must be addressed,” said Council President Shannon G. Hardin. “This collective effort funded by the City of Columbus will help residents access warm spaces with the ultimate goal of getting folks into housing.” 

Between October and March, Community Shelter Board implements a Winter Overflow Plan. There is no waiting list for folks seeking shelter due to expanded capacity. Individuals call the Homeless Hotline at 614-274-7000 to request shelter. Staff at the Homeless Hotline assess and attempt to direct callers to any other safe, appropriate housing per usual practice. After eligibility is determined, those experiencing literal homelessness are assigned to a bed within the system. The Community Shelter Board acts as the backbone of the region’s shelter system and helps thousands of individuals stay warm at night each winter. 

“Simply put, housing is a human right” said Councilmember Shayla Favor, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “As we continue to work towards permanent solutions to support our neighbors facing homelessness, it is critical to ensure warm places during the winter months. I am proud of our City and community partners in coming together and standing up a comprehensive plan to ensure all residents are safe this winter.” 

Warming Centers provide individuals with a safe, warm space during the day. An interactive map of participating daytime warming center locations is available here. (This map will be updated regularly based on location operations.) Homeless outreach teams will focus their engagement at Broad Street United Methodist Church and other high traffic locations, working to enroll unhoused residents in street outreach if they are interested and helping to develop a housing plan with them. 

“As the winter weather continues, all residents experiencing homelessness deserve access to shelters to protect them from the elements. The city’s partnership with public and private entities guarantees that all available resources are offered to these residents, and our refusal to become complacent keeps us searching for more effective ways to serve,” said Emerald Hernadez-Parra, Assistant Director for Special Projects. “Through the Columbus Housing Strategy, we include everyone in the city’s growth by addressing economic disparities through inclusive housing policies. This means we must capitalize on new and existing partnerships and encourage innovative problem-solving to keep each resident sheltered until an appropriate housing solution is found.”

While the vast majority of individuals experiencing homelessness will use existing shelters overnight, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and Community Development for All People (CD4AP) will operate temporary overnight warming centers to provide residents additional choices during the winter months. Paid staff, trained as community health workers, will be on site during hours of operation. The Columbus Coalition for the Homeless will operate sites at Broad Street United Methodist Church (501 E Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215) & Summit on 16th United Methodist Church (82 E 16th Ave, Columbus, OH 43201) until the end of February. Both sites will function as daytime warming sites and operate overnight (with a capacity of 30 per site at night). Community Development for All People will open the doors of their sanctuary (946 Parsons Ave, Columbus, OH 43206) starting in January 2023 for overnight purposes. CD4AP’s site on the South Side will have capacity for 60 individuals. 

“Community Shelter Board is deeply grateful for these growing partnerships with Columbus Coalition for the Homelessness and Community Development for All People”, said Michelle Heritage, President & CEO of Community Shelter Board. “The neighborhood-based beds they are bringing online may better engage people in need who don’t typically come inside. And coming inside can be the literal difference between life and death.” 

Agency staff have been soliciting community locations that would stay open during a level 3 snow emergency and instances of extreme cold. During level 3 snow emergencies, shelters keep individuals inside and remain open all day. Additionally, homeless outreach teams conduct specific, concentrated engagement in an attempt to get individuals inside ahead of extreme weather events. CD4AP & the Coalition’s respective sites will not close during extreme cold. CRPD Community Recreation Centers will open five regional Community Recreation Centers and will extend operating hours, 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. to accommodate those who need a warm place in extreme cold (below 0 degrees).

“Last Spring, Community Development for All People convened a group of community members, stakeholders, advocates and public officials to figure out how to better serve people experiencing homelessness. The conversations that followed have brought us to this point – a groundbreaking collaboration between government and nonprofits that will make a real difference,” said Mike Premo, Executive Director of Community Development for All People. “These overnight warming centers will save lives this winter, and will connect people experiencing homelessness to resources to ensure that many of them will have a home of their own this time next year.  We are grateful for everyone whose efforts have made these warming centers possible.”

Members of the public can donate to the nonprofits providing services this winter at the following links: Coalition for the HomelessCommunity Development for All People, and Community Shelter Board

“Coalition for the Homeless acts as a fail-safe or stopgap for individuals who are often not welcome or willing to go to other shelters for various reasons causing them to be at greater risk during winter months. Our clients tend to have trust issues making them less likely to fit into boxes,” said Josh Posten, Director of the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.  “Our role is to help build trust and positive relationships while connecting homeless individuals with donations and community resources with the ultimate goal to help them overcome their barriers.”