Extreme Emergency Cold Weather Shelter
"You are my place of safety and my shield. Your word is my hope." Psalm 119:114
When weather conditions become extreme, The Salvation Army opens its doors to those here in our local community who need a safe, warm place to stay.
In 2006, The Salvation Army began operating the Extreme Emergency Cold Weather Shelter in direct response to a community need. Tragically, several homeless individuals had died of exposure in recent years reportedly due to lack of adequate shelter.
To this day, The Salvation Army's Extreme Emergency Cold Weather Shelter (EECWS) remains one of the only emergency weather shelters in the greater Springfield-area and since 2006 the ECWS has provided shelter to nearly 900 people - including the disabled, single women and families with small children.
Prior to The Salvation Army opening the EECWS in 2006, local community stakeholders, such as The Salvation Army, The Kitchen, Victory Mission, the Springfield Police Department, the American Red Cross, the Council of Churches, and officials with the City of Springfield came together to address the issue of homelessness and extreme winter weather conditions. Collectively, this group was known as the Tapestry of Hope. The Salvation Army immediately offered to begin operating a cold weather shelter as well as provide the necessary resources, staffing and volunteers needed for such an operation. Although the Tapestry of Hope initially recommended The Salvation Army activate a cold weather shelter when the temperature reached 14 degrees, which was based on research about emergency cold weather shelters across the country, Salvation Army representatives offered to take the recommendation one step further by activating a cold weather shelter when the wind chill, not the temperature, reached 14 degrees as forecasted by the National Weather Service. The hope was that this extra measure would allow the cold weather shelter to operate more frequently and ultimately assist more people.
Other concerns that were taken into consideration regarding operation of an emergency cold weather shelter included the potential impact on the organization's property, current programs & services, the financial cost and the impact on staff & volunteers.
However, above all as a faith-based evangelical organization, The Salvation Army feels a duty to provide for those in need, or as stated in Matthew 25:40 "...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
Policies & Guidelines
In order to meet the ever-growing need to provide emergency shelter for those who seek it during extreme weather conditions, The Salvation Army currently works in collaboration with other area service providers, such as Victory Mission, Pathways United Methodist Church and East Sunshine Church of Christ, to ensure that those who seek shelter from the elements are able to find it.
Per The Salvation Army's current policy, once activated the Extreme Emergency Cold Weather Shelter is open to anyone in need of a safe, warm place to stay. Due to this "no turn away" policy, each EECWS client is asked to undergo a voluntary warrant check. However, clients who chose not to undergo a voluntary warrant check, for whatever reason, are then sheltered in a separate area of the building where trained emergency weather shelter monitors remain with them during the duration of their stay.
EECWS clients are provided with meals, access to shower & restroom facilities as well as assistance with general social services.
Every attempt is made to assist anyone who genuinely seeks help from The Salvation Army - especially during extreme weather conditions. Likewise, The Salvation Army does its absolute best to provide for those who turn to the organization for help with current resources that are available.
However, despite the "no turn away" policy not everyone who is in need of shelter will seek it. For a myriad of reasons there remains in virtually every community a population of individuals who when offered assistance, choose to decline it. Understandably, the issue of homelessness can be highly complex.
Additional Housing & Shelter Programs
In addition to sheltering those from extreme emergency weather conditions, The Salvation Army provides shelter or housing for approximately 70 individuals every single night through the Family Enrichment Center, New Start Housing, & Harbor House programs.
Family Enrichment Center - a transitional housing program for homeless families that provides them with support & practical assistance as they work toward breaking the cycle of homelessness.
New Start Housing - a transitional housing program for those currently residing in a shelter or a supportive housing situation; participants are provided with long-term support as they work toward regaining self-sufficiency.
Harbor House - a residential rehabilitation program for men who are homeless or in crisis situations; clients are provided with counseling, educational opportunities & life-skills training.
Looking Forward - Hope for ‘Hope Place'
While The Salvation Army attempts to meet the immediate needs of the homeless through its emergency weather shelters, The Salvation Army ultimately hopes to meet the needs of these individuals more comprehensively by building Springfield's first permanent year-round emergency shelter.
It should be noted that The Salvation Army's current EECWS, now in operation for more than six years, is obviously not an ideal situation for the greater-Springfield community, the organization & its resources, and most importantly the hundreds of clients that the EECWS serves. What began as a temporary solution to meet the most immediate needs of the local homeless population has to this day remained their primary refugee from extreme weather conditions.
With this in mind, it becomes clear that completion of The Salvation Army's proposed permanent year-round emergency shelter is more urgent now than ever before. Through the ‘Hope Place' project, The Salvation Army will once again attempt to meet the needs of those in our community who are less fortunate head-on, as the organization did when it began the EECWS in 2006.
An Urgent Need
According to the 2010 report titled "Homeless in Springfield & Greene County" the Task Force on Homelessness identified an urgent need for "... permanent emergency shelter to address the chronic homeless issue ..." in the Springfield area. It was clear from these discussions that taking a community-wide, pro-active approach to chronic homelessness was preferred to asking agencies, such as The Salvation Army, to address the needs of homeless individuals in a stop-gap fashion such as through emergency weather shelters. Establishing a permanent emergency shelter would not only be in the best interest of those served, but would also provide a more rational, humane and cost-effective strategy for the Springfield community at large.
The Salvation Army's proposed ‘Hope Place' campus will not only include a year-round permanent emergency shelter for the homeless, but also daily feeding programs for low-income individuals & families as well as access to a variety of social service programs & services.
With community support and most importantly the Lord's guidance, The Salvation Army's permanent year-round emergency shelter will be a reality in the coming years.
How to Help
As with virtually all programs & services, The Salvation Army's Extreme Emergency Cold Weather Shelter is made possible through generous community support in the form of financial contributions, volunteer service and in-kind donations.
For more information about The Salvation Army Ozark Area Coordination, its programs or services please call (417) 862-5509 or visit www.usc.salvationarmy.org/springfield-mo. Financial donations to support The Salvation Army can be mailed to The Salvation Army P.O. Box 9685 Springfield MO 65801-9685, or made over the phone by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
The Salvation Army Ozark Area Coordination helps residents in Greene, Christian, Taney & Stone counties. Available assistance includes an emergency food pantry, housing & shelter programs, a senior citizen center, character-building programs for children and many other community outreach events. In 2012, The Salvation Army provided more than 12,000 local individuals with social service assistance including distributing 7,000 bags of food to families & individuals in need, providing 110,000 meals to the hungry and helping nearly 8,500 individuals with seasonal assistance.