Harbor House homeless shelter in Columbia at full capacity

Local churches stepping in to help

Temperatures were near zero Wednesday night, and an approaching winter-weather storm is putting pressure on area shelters.

The Harbor House in Columbia is full and now trying to find places for people to sleep.

"We had 13 cots being put up for people so they would not freeze to death because that's just not acceptable," said Cyndy Chapman, a director with the Salvation Army.

After those 13 cots were filled, more people showed up for a warm place to sleep.

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia has stepped up to help, but will only have the resources available to house people until December 20.

"It's definitely a matter of resources," said Reverend Molly Housch Gordan. "We wish we could do more, but we're very pleased to do what we can."

Housch Gordan said the church opened an emergency shelter just days ago.

"The need is so great right now," she said. "We're seeing that by the fact that folks are coming to us, needing a place to stay."

Back at the Harbor House, Cyndy Chapman said food donations are the biggest need.

"With that many people and three meals a day, the Salvation Army kitchen is always, always busy," Chapman said.

And it's not just adults who are coming in looking for a warm place to stay.

"We have 10 children at Harbor House right now, which is pretty unnerving sometimes, that we have that many homeless children in our city in that one place," Chapman said.

For those wishing to help, Chapman said food, blankets, towels or money donations are always welcome.

Housch Gordon said at the church, people can donate food, blankets or clothing.

"We'd love to be able to send people out with warm gloves and warm socks, any type of winter clothes that can help outfit people in these cold temperatures," she said.

The shelter at the Unitarian church is open every day from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. until December 20.

The Harbor House is always open, but has limited space. Volunteers said this time of year is the busiest and they want to do their best to provide a place for people to sleep.

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