Room of the Inn opens for first night

Joe Gamm/News Tribune
Mathew McDonald waits in line Friday night as the new location for Jefferson City Room at the Inn opens. About a dozen people waited outside for the winter overnight shelter to open for the first time at First Baptist Church.
Joe Gamm/News Tribune Mathew McDonald waits in line Friday night as the new location for Jefferson City Room at the Inn opens. About a dozen people waited outside for the winter overnight shelter to open for the first time at First Baptist Church.

Mathew McDaniel went to First Baptist Church wearing protective leg pads all the way to his thighs.

"I go exploring quite a bit," the 55-year-old man from Eldon said. He was one of the guests Friday at Room at the Inn's opening night for this year.

He said he has been in Jefferson City "on and off" for about seven years. He will usually sleep in a tent after riding his bike around town. He went to the shelter Friday night to check out the place and see how he would like it.

The overnight cold shelter opened at First Baptist Church Activities Building, 107 Monroe St. -- a new venue this year. It holds more cots compared with the old venue operated at the Catholic Charities offices the past two winters. Guests began signing in around 5:30 p.m. and Mariah Luebbering, the shelter's co-chair, said she expected to see all 20 beds taken.

"Last year we were full every single night," she said.

When guests came in the door, they had to sign in at the front desk. There, they decided what belongings to keep with them and what to put into the shelter's storage room. Then volunteers handed each of them a set of bedding. The guests could then choose their own numbered cot, with those for men up front and those for women in a separate space. There were a small desk and a trash can next to each bed.

Since the cots are all numbered, returning guests can get the cot and bedding set they used before, Luebbering said. The shelter will be able to wash and dry all the bedding on site because it received a donation of a new washer and dryer.

Luebbering was on-site before the doors opened to help with last-minute preparations, such as getting 20 new pillows and their covers ready, as well as training the new volunteers. There were around seven volunteers responsible for the evening, overnight and morning shifts, while two others would bring in dinner. For guests Friday evening, their meal was wild rice and chicken casserole.

"Mostly, we've gotten prepared ahead of time," the organizer added.

One of the new volunteers was Steve DeVries, a member of the First Baptist Church. He was responsible for scanning all the guests with a wand metal detector after they signed in. He planned on staying until around 11 p.m., he said, adding he decided to help after hearing about the shelter from his pastor, Melissa Hatfield.

"We have room, we're downtown. Most of these folks are downtown," he said. "(The shelter) helps those folks. They need help. They're forgotten, and we don't want to forget them."

Luebbering said she was grateful for the church's congregation lending a hand and was excited for the new venue.

"They have been wonderful to work with," she said. "They as a congregation are excited to help. That's just a wonderful feeling."

  photo  Joe Gamm/News Tribune Mathew McDonald finds his assigned cot Friday night at Jefferson City Room at the Inn. McDonald said he has a tent, but appreciates a warm, dry cot.
 
 
  photo  Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune Clinton Shepard relaxes on his cot for the night, as Friday marked the opening of the Jefferson City Room at the Inn shelter.
 
 
  photo  Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune Caroline Saucier checks in guests Friday at the newly opened Jefferson City Room at the Inn shelter. About a dozen people were waiting when the shelter opened.
 
 
  photo  Alexa Pfeiffer/News Tribune Shelter host Mariah Luebbering gives bedding to Mathew McDaniel as he checks in Friday at the Jefferson City Room at the Inn.