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Volunteers needed as Room at the Inn opens year-round

This image shows a makeshift bed made out of cardboard. There is a thin mattress on the ground and a blue sleeping bag.
Jon Tyson
Room at the Inn will now be open year round.

COLUMBIA − Room at the Inn opened its doors only two nights ago, and its staff is struggling to find volunteers.

The homeless shelter is now serving the community year-round for the first time ever. Columbia City Council recently approved $450,000 in funding for the shelter, which made the increase in hours possible.

Executive Director John Trapp said the organization has seen a steep increase in guests the last two nights.

"We served 68 guests the first night and 64 the second night," Trapp said. "We expect to see something similar tonight, especially with the cold weather."

Trapp said they added five more beds after the increase in guests, making a total of 90 beds; 25 beds set aside for women and 65 for men.

In order to accommodate these guests, the group requires 12 to 15 volunteers every day, alongside the group's 18 staff members.

On Tuesday afternoon, only one volunteer had signed up to serve guests for the night.

"I may have to reassign staff from check-in to preparing food which may delay entry for the guests," Trapp said. "When it's cold, we generally bring them inside to wait for check-in, but I'm not going to have the staffing to do that tonight."

The staff managed to call-in some regular volunteers from past years to help prepare and serve food for the night, making somewhere around 150 sandwiches.

Volunteer Sarah Johnson said she urges anyone and everyone to volunteer.

"This is my third night in a row," Johnson said. "You hear a lot of people talking about what needs to be done and a lot of people coming up with ideas, but what we really need is people to volunteer and be here to help these things be accomplished."

Trapp said the shortage of volunteers slows down the check-in process because they move the few they have into the kitchen. This could cause longer waiting times in the cold weather.

Room at the Inn now operates at 1509 Ashley Street in Columbia, after the city allowed them to use the building this year. In past years, they operated out of churches and often had to move locations.

Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up on Room at the Inn's website, or use the organization's SignUpGenius.

To report an error or typo, email news@komu.com.

KOMU 8 is a full-powered NBC affiliate operating as an independent commercial property. As such, KOMU 8 is the only major network affiliate in the United States that acts as a university-owned commercial television station utilizing its newsroom as a working lab for students.
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