No room at the Inn: Where are these folks going to go?

A woman talks to someone on her cell phone while others move possessions out of her room.

The Quincy Salvation Army was on hand to assist with the displacement of the 300 people living at the Welcome Inn before the City of Quincy condemned the property on Tuesday.

The Salvation Army has done great work in Hannibal and Quincy for decades. We ring bells and fill red buckets to help those needing our assistance.

This is the Salvation Army’s mission statement:

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

Meeting human needs … well, right now, about 300 humans have needs in our community.

The Salvation Army has a 10-year-old 98,000 square foot facility at Fifth and Broadway. Cots can go on basketball courts, volleyball courts and conference rooms.

The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center

Yet it doesn’t seem to be that simple.

Chad Rodgers, operations manager for the Kroc Center, said Wednesday morning “a lot of factors” prevent the facility from accommodating the people forced into the streets.

Rodgers cited the dues-paying members and programs, including child care, that would be impacted by an influx of people needing shelter. He also brought up Adams County’s rising COVID numbers. Very fair point.

Helping desperate people with temporary housing would seem to trump yoga classes and treadmill time, but Rodgers has a point. Keeping kids safe is certainly cause for concern, but they have 98,000 square feet. It’s a big damn building.

The facility’s entire lower level is shut down due to renovations. Shower facilities can’t be accessed, and Rodgers said that limits the venue’s overall availability — another valid point.

Also, renovations? The building is only 10 years old, yet it seems to always be under some sort of repair. I guess $20 million doesn’t buy you that much after all.

Across the corner from the Kroc Center on the northeast corner of Fifth and Broadway sits the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter. It can house only eight people. Normally, it would house 16 people, but it must deal with COVID restrictions as well.

And yes, they are full.

The Quincy Housing Authority helps people needing housing assistance. Representatives today were busy dealing with Section 8 housing and couldn’t talk about the situation. With multiple facilities available in the community, surely people can find shelter there. Let’s hope the QHA is looking to be a part of the solution.

Multiple hotel managers in Quincy have said they were not going to accept long-term stays from Welcome Inn residents. They look at the condition of the Eagle’s Nest (which the city shut down in March) and Welcome Inn, and they don’t want their facilities to end up looking like that.

People who own rental property units also seem to share that sentiment and have shown me pictures and videos of multiple properties that have been trashed. Also, some people just can’t come up with first month’s rent, the deposit, etc. on such short notice.

Also going into the equation- the number of times Quincy Police have been called to the Welcome Inn recently:

2019: 394 QPD calls for service
2020: 547 QPD calls for service
2021 (to July 27): 346 QPD calls for service
Quincy Police Department calls to the Welcome Inn since January 2019

Yeah, can’t expect many hoteliers to want that many police cars in their parking lots.

The City of Quincy has been talking with Quincy Property LLC, the owner of the Welcome Inn, since January. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry to fix their crumbling building.

Now we have folks in need.

There is the multi-agency resource center at 1016 Vermont, which is a vacant city building, that will take care of about 50 people…for now. They have been given one week to find a more permanent solution.

It’s easy to sit in an air-conditioned ranch-style brick home and talk about lazy, shiftless, freeloading ne’er-do-wells who won’t get a job. Granted, there seems to be a lot of that these days, especially when you see the number of QPD calls to the Welcome Inn (see above).

However, the Welcome Inn also housed people suffering from mental illness and people who caught a series of bad breaks and ended up somewhere they didn’t want to be by no choice of their own.

Quincy has long claimed to be a “City of Refuge,” going back to the Mormons, who were persecuted and booted out of Missouri, and African-Americans, who jumped on the Underground Railroad at the Dr. Richard Eells House.

It’s time for Quincy to live up to that reputation once again.

J. Robert Gough is the Publisher/GM of Muddy River News

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