A homeless person holds a kitten while sitting inside a cold weather shelter
A homeless couple and their two cats find warmth at the Connecting Grounds Church on a cold winter night in 2021. (Photo by Dean Curtis)

For the many people living in this community without shelter, this week’s frigid temperatures no doubt hit hard. 

Soon they will have overnight shelters that open on nights when the temperature is predicted to hit 32 or colder. 

Springfield’s crisis cold weather shelters are completely volunteer-driven and operate inside different church buildings throughout the community from Nov. 1 to March 31. 

In an effort to recruit more volunteers and better prepare the current volunteers, a training event will be held 6-8 p.m. Oct. 24 at the O’Reilly Center for Hope, 1518 E. Dale St. 

Cots are set up at the crisis cold weather shelter inside Unity of Springfield.
This is what Unity of Springfield’s crisis cold weather shelter looked like before guests arrived last year. (Photo: Lisa Landrigan)

Specialists from Burrell Behavioral Health and Community Partnership of the Ozarks (CPO) will present information on the following topics:

  • the importance of setting boundaries with guests
  • trauma-informed care
  • de-escalation and diversity

CPO’s cold weather shelter organizer Lisa Landrigan explained that the idea for the training came from conversations she’s had with current volunteers, as well as conversations with people who want to volunteer but worry they are not equipped to handle situations. 

“The hard situations are really few and far between,” Landrigan said. “This type of training will hopefully alleviate some of those hesitations in people that want to volunteer, but really aren’t comfortable in some of those types of situations.”

Shelters are housed in church buildings

Here are the crisis cold weather shelter locations and capacity for this year:

  • East Sunshine Church of Christ can have up to 50 men. 
  • Grace United Methodist Church can have up to 20 women.
  • Asbury United Methodist Church can have up to 35 individuals and pets. 
  • Unity of Springfield Church can have up to 22 individuals.
  • Sacred Heart Catholic Church can have up to 25 men.  
  • Revive 66 Campground has 50 tiny campers that are open to individuals and their pets. These are normally $10 to rent, but are free on nights when the crisis cold weather shelters open. 
  • The Connecting Grounds is using its church building as an overnight shelter for families every night through April regardless of the temperature. (More about this below)

Landrigan said other sites are set to open after Jan. 1, 2023.

Volunteers make shelter programs happen

There are a few different volunteer opportunities, Landrigan said.

Each shelter site needs two people who can stay overnight and take turns sleeping. These volunteers are typically there from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

Hospitality volunteers are there from 6-9 p.m. They arrive before guests to get everything ready and then help welcome guests. 

In the morning, someone is needed to visit each of the sites and gather any dirty laundry to drop off at Enterprise Laundry. Enterprise Laundry provides free services for the program.

This is Lisa Landrigan, Community Partnership of the Ozarks organizer for the crisis cold weather shelter program.
This is Lisa Landrigan, Community Partnership of the Ozarks organizer for the crisis cold weather shelter program. (Photo: provided by Lisa Landrigan)

And then sanitation volunteers are needed to visit the sites in the mornings to clean and sanitize. Landrigan said these volunteers can be done in about an hour and a half. 

Representatives from each shelter site will be at the training event on Oct. 24 to answer questions and provide information about their shelter. 

Landrigan served as a volunteer for the cold weather shelter site at Unity of Springfield church for two years and was that site’s volunteer coordinator last year. 

CPO was able to create her current part-time position as organizer thanks to money left over from last year’s crisis cold weather fund. The hope is that the organizer position will become a full-time position, she said. 

If you cannot attend the training, find more information about how to volunteer or support the crisis cold weather shelter program on the Community Partnership of the Ozarks website.

Connecting Grounds creates family shelter 

Connecting Grounds Pastor Christie Love announced on Facebook Tuesday that starting in November, she is suspending all in-person worship services until the first week of April so that the church building at 4341 W. Chestnut Expressway can be used as an overnight shelter for families.

Church services will return to online services and once-a-month gatherings.

The Connecting Grounds was recently awarded $650,000 in American Rescue Act Plan funds from the city to do several projects, including creating this emergency shelter for families. 

“This space will be open EVERY night regardless of temperature,” Love’s post reads in part, “because adults and kids cannot tell the difference between the misery of 32 degrees and that of 33 degrees when they are left to suffer in the elements. 

“The shelter will offer families in crisis the chance to stay together while our volunteers and staff work to connect them to resources in the system that could support their situation,” the post continues. 

Love told the Daily Citizen that the shelter will be able to have four families at a time.

“We knew that is not enough to meet the potential need,” Love said in a text message, “however, we knew we had to do something. With local motels now charging locals as much as $500 a week for a room, we expect to see this space fill quickly. We are hoping to find a partner church or additional space to shelter more families.”

Families won’t be allowed to stay there during the day (unless it’s a snow day), but they can store their belongings at the church.

In the post, Love explains more about the need for volunteers to help with the shelter and the many ways people can support the church’s outreach. Find the post here and more information about how to help here

The Connecting Grounds Church has been serving the Ozarks’ unsheltered community since 2018. In addition to the church, it operates an outreach center where people can get services such as medical care, clothes and bus passes (when available). It also has outreach teams who reach people living on the streets, in vehicles, motels and camps.

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers housing, homelessness, domestic violence and early childhood, among other public affairs issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald