A rise in local homelessness sparks community concern and a call to action.  

Tornado sirens sound during a raging storm and people living on the streets have no protection when they have no place called home. A single mom works a full-time job and pays the rent with the help of a housing choice voucher; unfortunately, the rent increases by $50 a month, and the family is evicted. A woman flees a domestic violence situation and finds herself without shelter. Many people face these realities every day; the homeless population includes more people than those seen walking the streets. The causes of homelessness are complex and varied, as are the solutions.  

The most common type of homelessness is transitional homelessness, where situations cause people to be temporarily without a home, and they find themselves in a shelter or couch surfing. A second type of homelessness is when people move in and out of homelessness sporadically. The third and least common type of homelessness, but also the most visible, is chronic homelessness. Chronic homelessness is when people have been homeless for over a year or mostly unhoused for two years. Many of these individuals suffer from mental health disorders, substance use disorders, disabilities, or other medical conditions.  

Some people say, “They should just get a job.”  This is an overly simplistic response to this problem. In fact, at least three guests who stayed at Jefferson City Room at the Inn (JCRATI), an emergency, overnight homeless shelter operating during winter months, were employed. One guest, because they felt safe enough to get a good night’s sleep, left early each night to work extra hours with the goal of saving for an apartment. Imagine the challenges of getting and keeping a job when it’s impossible to sleep due to fear of safety or trying to save up enough money for a deposit and two to three months’ rent when someone may steal it during the night. Imagine not having a place to stay that is warm and dry and no place to take a shower or wash clothes to be presentable for work.  

While the exact numbers are a challenge to obtain, there seems to be an increase in homelessness in Jefferson City. Over the 2023-2024 winter season (from December to the middle of March), JCRATI housed 130 different guests. Some nights, they even had to turn people away as the space is limited to only 20 guests.  

At the same time, the Salvation Army remained at over 90% occupancy in their permanent shelter with 10,239 total overnight stays recorded. They also provided overnight cots during the winter season, which helped with 245 of their recorded stays. Of their shelter residents, 23% were children.   

Housing the Community JC (HCJC) is a 501c3 that is working to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness and the housing vulnerable. This organization grew from the work of the Jefferson City Homeless Task Force, a grassroots effort that brought community members together to seek solutions. Project Homeless Connect and JCRATI are two of their current projects. So far, JCRATI has provided shelter for three winters. Project Homeless Connect, a one-day event that connects unhoused and housing vulnerable people with medical and social service resources, will host its 10th event in September. HCJC is also working to bring more awareness to the fact that a central transitional housing location is needed to create a bridge for those seeking permanent housing. Currently, transitional housing for chronic homelessness is nonexistent, and there are many barriers to moving from the streets to permanent housing. Ideally, this location would be a day center where the unhoused can find a safe place to gather, take showers, do laundry, and connect with community resources. Transitional housing or permanent supportive housing, which surrounds individuals with support services, is greatly needed to ensure success in moving to stable housing.  

Addressing the needs of the local homeless population will require the work of the community. It’s important for individuals to get involved by volunteering or donating necessary supplies or money. Working with the homeless by volunteering at a shelter or agency that serves the homeless enables volunteers to see those experiencing homelessness as people with needs beyond their abilities to address alone. Jefferson City shows its best face when the community comes together to serve, and addressing the needs of the local homeless population will require the work of the community.

Homeless Services

Common Ground
Help with IDs and birth certificates 

Compass Health Crisis Center and Assertive Community Treatment 
Wrap-around services that target individuals with mental health diagnosis

First Baptist Church
Bible study and meal every Wednesday with needs pantry and community meal first Thursday of every month 

First Presbyterian Church
Service meals on Sunday evenings 

First United Methodist Church
Showers, a sack lunch with non-perishable food, and lockers

Harbor House
Overnight shelter for 20 individuals during winter months

Landmark Recovery Center
Essential services and connections with treatment programs 

Missouri River Regional Library
Shelter from weather conditions and access to computers

Room at the Inn
Overnight shelter for 60 individuals/families 

Salvation Army Center of Hope
Three meals a day