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For several years now, reporters across the Missouri News Network have looked closely at the issue of homelessness in Columbia – and beyond. Reporters and photographers talked with those who are unhoused, those who are finding ways to help homeless people, and leaders and policymakers working on funding and policy changes to bring change to the homeless community. Here is a collection of those stories.

Columbia nonprofit hosts winter boot drive for homeless population

A photo of a makeshift bed on concrete. There is a blue sleeping bag on top of the mattress present in the photo.
Jon Tyson
The team is asking for donations of winter shoes until Nov. 15.

COLUMBIA — As mid-Missouri gears up for winter weather, one Columbia nonprofit is looking for donations of old or unused sturdy winter boots or shoes for those in need.

The COMO Mobile Aid Collective is a team that provides services and basic necessities to people in any stage of homelessness.

This fall, the team is asking for donations of winter shoes until Nov. 15.

Although Missouri itself has been seeing a decline in number of individuals who are homeless, there is still work to be done.

The total homeless population in Missouri in 2022 reached nearly 6,000 people. That's according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR).

Stephanie Yoakum, operations director for COMO Mobile Aid Collective, said she is seeing bigger numbers than ever in Columbia of those in need of shoes.

"People are walking up to several miles a day in incredibly challenging elements," Yoakum said. "And are averaging more miles than the average person in the winter."

Yoakum said the organization hopes to collect a minimum of 250 pairs of shoes from the drive. She said this number reflects the number of people its interacting with each week, which Yoakum said is usually 200 people.

COMO Mobile Aid will hand the shoes out at its "Fabulous Fall Foot Fest" event in December, where the team brings in nurses to examine people's feet for infections and fit them with a pair of shoes.

"A good, sturdy pair of boots and clean and dry feet are like a quality clean and dry roof for your home," Yoakum said.

Yoakum said the purpose of the event is to create a closer connection with the unhoused population and the community.

"A lot of services can appear transactional to the person receiving them, we just kind of like to make it more fun," Yoakum said. "Really make it personable and have people maybe sit down for an hour or so and really make it an enjoyable time."

There are four drop off locations for donations:

  • Best Buy (2001 W. Worley St. Suite 140)
  • Fairfield by Marriot (115 Woodland Springs Ct.)
  • Maude Vintage (9 N. Tenth St.)
  • COMO Rocks (205 E. Nifong Blvd. Unit 120)

If you have no boots to spare, but still want to help, you can also order directly off the COMO Mobile Aid's Amazon wish list. The group is accepting donations for this drive through Nov. 15.

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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