Although many look forward to the fall and winter months in the Midlands, the cold snap proves to make it much more difficult on Columbia's homeless population. The Inclement Weather Center, operated by Transitions Homeless Center, opened for the season last week and provides a hot meal and a safe place to sleep for those in need.

The center is open from November to March, and officials urge anybody looking for their services, over the age of 18, to come through. Those who come to the center with children will be provided an alternate site to stay, such as a hotel, paid for by Transitions.

“On a cold night in the Midlands, anybody can come to the IWC who’s 18 or older. There’s no reason that they need to be sleeping out in the woods or somewhere, where they’ll get hurt from the cold weather,” Chief Executive Officer of Transitions Craig Curry said. “They can come in and get a place that’s warm, with a hot meal.”

The facility has 240 available beds, with both a men and women’s dorm. The center runs according to the National Weather Service, opening for nights the temperature sinks below 40 degrees.

The IWC has a transportation route already set up for those looking to travel to the center. The route starts at COMET Central on Laurel Street and brings people directly to the complex. The buses begin running at 5:45 p.m. and go until 7 p.m.

If a client chooses to, they can talk with a staff member about various services that are offered at Transitions. Many people who need addiction counseling, mental health counseling or any other programs are encouraged to give Transitions’ services a chance.

Clients go through a quick screening process before receiving their bed assignments and being allowed to eat and socialize within the socially-distant center. Beds and tables are equally spaced out so that anyone utilizing the shelter will be following COVID protocols.

Over the last few years, a record-night for the center usually was about 140 clients during a single evening, but the IWC has hit full capacity in the past.

Salvation Army, which provides the food, collaborates with Transitions to run the center in a contract with United Way.

The Inclement Weather Center is always looking for volunteers, according to Currey. Those interested can find openings on the IWC's Facebook page and website.

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