SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The call for cold weather shelter volunteers in Springfield is going out to a new group of people this year.
Organizers said volunteers are historically older, but the pandemic is changing the dynamic.
Community Partnership of the Ozarks Homeless Services Policy and Program Coordinator, Amanda Stadler, said they now are looking for volunteers who are younger and from the community.
She said this is because of health concerns surrounding those who are older.
“A previous volunteer kind of described the role as similar to a flight stewardess or a flight attendant, which I think is a great analogy,” Stadler said. “There’s kind of a rush in the beginning with getting folks checked in, getting folks settled, but then for most of the time, it’s just keeping an eye on the building, asking questions and then there’s a little bit of a rush at the end of the shift.”Stadler said they train volunteers ahead of time.
“We realize maybe this is uncomfortable for some people, maybe you’ve never worked in a field like this before,” Stadler said.
East Sunshine Church of Christ Men’s Cold Weather Shelter Coordinator, Karen Mizell, said men have been coming there to find shelter during the cold weather for more than 12 years.
“I just want to make a plea to the community to please help these people out,” Mizell said.
She said usually their church congregation can fill the volunteer slots.
“At our church building we had been able to cover the volunteer area with our own people, our own membership here, but with COVID a lot of our people were older and with health issues and were not able to work this year,” Mizell said.
Mizell said now she only has two nights that are totally covered with volunteers at this point.
She said it’s going to take the community’s help to make it work. They need two men to volunteer per night.
“One of those men can sleep half of the night, if they choose to, some prefer to stay up all night, and right now I still need nine overnight men to open the shelter,” Mizell said.
Stadler said volunteers work in pairs and can usually expect to stay overnight at a shelter two to four nights per month.
CPO has a central volunteer form available that is shared across all the shelters. You can find the form here.